NASA Administrator Wants Prolonged Moon Exploration, Gateway

This composite image of the Moon is the view we are most likely to see when the Moon is full. NASA is hoping to send astronauts back to the Moon in the next decade. NASA

The first astronauts to land on the Moon did so nearly 50 years ago. When they stepped onto its surface, they began an exploration that stopped nearly as quickly as it started.

Nine missions in all were intended to reach the Moon; six actually made it. But now NASA wants to go back.

In an interview at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters that the goal is to go to the Moon and stay there, reported.

The Moon could become an area for NASA to run experiments and do tests, Bridenstine said. The plan is backed by a budget proposal from the Trump administration that includes more than $10 billion for extensive moon research.

Rather than a base on the Moon, NASA envisages a gateway: a craft that orbits the Moon. That would make it easier for astronauts to remain in orbit, and it would make missions to the surface and out to deep space easier to complete.

The first step is to get supplies and instruments there sometime in 2019 in preparation for a human return, NASA said.

NASA recently announced evidence of water on the Moon. The water ice in the craters of the poles of the Moon was discovered with the help of the Chandrayaan-1, an instrument operated by the Indian Space Research Organization.

The water is in an area that is perpetually freezing, so the water remains ice and is likely ancient. It is thought to be located within the first top few millimeters of the surface of the Moon, which could make it fairly easy for astronauts or a rover of some sort to get to.

The hope is that the presence of water could help prolong stays on the Moon by allowing for longer periods between resupply missions.