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Secret NASA’s Plans For Moon Return And Lunar Base Revealed

In the nearly two months since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return to the Moon by 2024, space agency engineers have been working to put together a plan that leverages existing technology, large projects nearing completion, and commercial rockets to bring this about, according to Ars Technica.

Last week, an updated plan that demonstrated a human landing in 2024, annual sorties to the lunar surface thereafter, and the beginning of a Moon base by 2028, began circulating within the agency.

A graphic, shown provides information about each of the major launches needed to construct a small Lunar Gateway, stage elements of a lunar lander there, fly crews to the Moon and back, and conduct refueling missions.

This decade-long plan, which entails 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, as well as a mix of robotic and human landers, culminates with a “Lunar Surface Asset Deployment” in 2028, likely the beginning of a surface outpost for long-duration crew stays.

Developed by the agency’s senior human spaceflight manager, Bill Gerstenmaier, this plan is everything Pence asked for—an urgent human return, a Moon base, a mix of existing and new contractors.

One thing missing is its cost. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has asked for an additional $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2020 as a down payment to jump-start lander development. But all of the missions in this chart would cost much, much more. Sources continue to tell Ars that the internal projected cost is $6 billion to $8 billion per year on top of NASA’s existing budget of about $20 billion.

In July, NASA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. 

President Donald Trump previously announced his administration would be “restoring [NASA] to greatness” by going back to the Moon, and later, Mars. “I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” he wrote via Twitter.

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