"The base is likely to be built on one of the Moon's poles and will serve as a science centre and possible stepping stone for manned missions to Mars."They have it all wrong. It should be the other way around.
A Lunar base should serve as a stepping stone for a manned mission to Mars, and possibly as a science centre.
It's either that, or this hypothetical base has already become a Lunar version of the ISS: A white elephant in the sky.
This is encouraging though:
"Nasa is also expected to ask other countries - and businesses - to help it build the base."If NASA can engage the business community in lunar exploration and turn this into a commerical opportunity, it goes a long way to getting the public out in space.
And let's not forget, that's what the whole point of this adventure is. If it's just about a select few individuals exploring the Cosmos or some space-geek getting nifty data from a science experiment then it's lost its true value to humanity.
We need an escape. The sooner the better. Hopefully one day 40 years from now we'll look up the Moon the same way that Europeans looked across the Atlantic Ocean and dreamed about a New World and a second chance.
One more thing...
I notice that the "plan" for going to the moon involves leaving the CEV unmanned in Lunar orbit based on this tidbit: "(7) In Moon orbit, they re-join the waiting robot-minded Orion and begin the journey back to Earth..."
That is of course if "unmanned" is what they mean by "robot-minded."
Apollo left one astronaut aboard the command module while the other two went down to the surface. In the event of a problem, like say the lander being unable to return to same orbit as the command module around the moon, the astronaut in the command module would have been directed to leave his comrades behind and head home. The thought being that it was better to have one astronaut come back home than risk loosing all three by trying to maneuver the command module to a lower orbit.
Or so the story goes... I'm wondering if leaving the CEV unmanned is NASA's way of eliminating the ethical dilemna of having one astronaut still in Lunar orbit. Now it's all or nothing.