NASA is planning a lunar base for only $10bn


A moon colony may seem straight from the pages of science fiction, but NASA is reportedly prepared to establish a permanent lunar base. The base, which will be created once the International Space Station (ISS) ceases operations in 2022.

The announcement comes at a time when NASA’s budgets have been experiencing a decline. The 2016 budget is $18bn. The lunar base, it is claimed, will cost $10bn. By contrast, the Apollo missions, which saw 12 people send into space, would in today’s money cost $170bn.

While the cost of the lunar base may seem comparatively low, as part of NASA’s overall budget, it is far from small.

It has already been revealed that NASA has increasingly cooperated with private companies in order to get their missions off the ground, following decades of declining federal funding.

Just this week it was revealed that private companies such as SpaceX and Boeing possessed the capability to send their own astronauts into space within two years.

Such companies have for years collaborated with national agencies such as NASA, often in cargo missions at the benefit of the organisations.

SpaceX has since its inception been involved in cargo for NASA, supplying the ISS and astronauts stationed their with essential tools and equipment.

The future, and indeed present, of space exploration is public-private partnership. NASA’s lunar base would nearly absorb its yearly budget. Based on these facts, it is unlikely to be a NASA independent initiative.

Indeed, the research on which the $10bn claim is built upon was created by a coalition of NASA researchers, Google Lunar X Prize foundation leads, and so-called ‘other stakeholders’. These are likely to be private space organisations.

This was confirmed by NASA itself. An astrobiologist working for the organisation mentioned the likely use of private companies in any future plans.

“When the cost of a short stay on the Moon drops into the tens of millions of dollars per person, it starts to tap into the same market that has given us private spaceflight participants to the International Space Station,” said Chris McKay, NASA astrobiologist.

“The presence of a government base is also the presence of a customer on the Moon – a factor that can stimulate the development of services, supplies, and technology to the benefit of all.”

The proposed lunar base would not actually take the form of a colony. Set up to replace the ISS, it will function as a vital centre for research, scientific experiments, and perhaps even a refueling station for future, longer space missions.

Whether this will be achieved by 2022 remains to be seen.


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