NASA Considers Lunar Mission As A Stepping Stone For Mars Mission
NASA and the project managers from Lockheed Martin are discussing and preparing for Exploration Mission 1, which is the Orion spacecraft module's first journey to the Moon and in space. The mission will be the possible return of the space agency in lunar orbit and could be a stepping stone for Mars mission.
The Orion spacecraft is an exploration-class vehicle to send astronauts into the deep space and could eventually thrust humans to Mars. The Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) is slated for 2018 and will see an uncrewed Orion fly beyond low-Earth orbit on the most powerful rocket, which is NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). It will be launched from Kennedy Space Center and will orbit around the Moon, according to Observer.
Scott Wilson, NASA's Orion Production Manager, said that this is the first time they will have the operational human-rated version of Orion on top of the SLS rocket. He added it is a lot of work but a very exciting time for them.
Meanwhile, Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin's Orion program Manager, said that EM-1 will take Orion and the Space Launch System into a high lunar orbit and that is the orbit that NASA has identified to do the asteroid retrieval mission that will bring a large boulder into that orbit. He further said that this will essentially be a dress rehearsal for that mission -- to go and prove the Orion systems and come home.
NASA's goal in returning to the Moon needs preparation including its budget and the duration of the flight. NASA astronaut Stan Love said that the Moon is roughly a thousand times further than the International Space Station. He further said that Mars is roughly a million times further than the space station so it is a long journey. He added that a lot of folks have the idea that the space station is kind of halfway to the planets. On the other hand, Mars is an enormous undertaking and not everybody realizes how enormous it is.
Meanwhile, TCPalm reports that the House hearing has been discussing the possible return of NASA to the Moon after 44 years. The Oklahoma lawmakers, who are considered the frontrunner for NASA's administrator, want the space agency to regain its dominance around the Moon. If this materializes, the mission would eventually boost America's space program, and it could be the major stepping stone for the Mars mission in the coming years.