Although U.S. astronauts have visited the moon before, they only spent a few days there, making short forays into the barren landscape. A new Vison for Space Exploration, announced by President George W. Bush in January 2004, calls for the establishment of human outposts on the moon and later, human exploration of Mars. This time, we're going back to stay.
Apollo 17 Landing Site, HST and Apollo mission images. NASA/ESA/HST Moon Team
To prepare for potential manned missions to the Earth's Moon, NASA scientists are using the Hubble Space Telescope to hunt for resources, such as oxygen, that are essential for people to survive and to sustain their existence on the lunar surface. Hubble's preliminary observations and results are promising. A preliminary assessment of the Hubble observations pinpoints possible locations of ilmenite, a titanium oxide rich in oxygen, at the Apollo 17 landing region. Ilmenite is a potentially key resource because it contains easily extracted oxygen, which can be used for breathing and for rocket fuel. Since the moon doesn't have an atmosphere, scientists must hunt for oxygen in lunar soils if we are to learn to live off the “land”.
More: NASA - Hubble Prospects For Resources on The Moon