Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts will again explore the surface of the moon. And
this time, we're going to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and
beyond. There are echoes of the iconic images of the past, but it won't be your grandfather's moon shot.
Image left: NASA's new crew exploration vehicle in lunar orbit. Click to enlarge. Artist's concept by John Frassanito and Associates.
This journey begins soon, with development of a new spaceship. Building on the best of Apollo and shuttle technology, NASA's creating a 21st century exploration system that will be affordable, reliable, versatile, and safe.
The centerpiece of this system is a new spacecraft designed to carry four astronauts to and from the moon, support up to six crewmembers on future missions to Mars, and deliver crew and supplies to the International Space Station.
The new crew vehicle will be shaped like an Apollo capsule, but it will be three times larger, allowing four astronauts to travel to the moon at a time.
Coupled with the new lunar lander, the system sends twice as many astronauts to the surface as Apollo, and they can stay longer, with the initial missions lasting four to seven days. And while Apollo was limited to landings along the moon's equator, the new ship carries enough propellant to land anywhere on the moon's surface.
Once a lunar outpost is established, crews could remain on the lunar surface for up to six months. The spacecraft can also operate without a crew in lunar orbit, eliminating the need for one astronaut to stay behind while others explore the surface.
More:NASA How We'll Get Back to the Moon