Plans afoot for astronauts to orbit moon’s far sideNovember 26th, 2010 - 4:54 pm ICT by IANS
London, Nov 26 (IANS) Scientists want to explore the far side of the moon using a manned spacecraft for the first time since the Apollo landings of 1968.
Engineers with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin want to send up astronauts into stationary orbit above earth’s best-known natural satellite to study it further.
The firm hopes to use remote controlled robots dispatched from their spacecraft to collect samples and explore the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the moon - one of the oldest craters in the solar system.
Crucially, they also hope it will serve as a test for a future possible mission to Mars. The six-month trip would see if the equipment and the astronauts, most likely from the US, were capable of enduring long-term space travel, reports the Daily Mail.
NASA has in the past estimated that it could take around a year to complete a round-trip to the red planet and back, allowing a few months to collect samples, according to a NASA statement.
Lockheed’s plan involves using the combined gravity of the earth and the moon to ensure that its craft hovers on the same spot, within sight of both planets.
It has pitched what it is calling the L-2 Farside Mission Orion spacecraft to do the job, which would house both astronauts and probes.
So long as NASA approves, it will give both organisations the chance to see how humans respond to lengthy doses of deep space radiation, a key problem on a longer Martian trip.
The far side of the moon is permanently turned away from us and at best we can only ever see one-fifth of it.
The surface was first photographed by Luna 3, a Soviet probe, in 1959 then the Apollo 8 mission followed in 1968 but there has been scant exploration of it since.
Should Lockheed’s plan be approved by NASA, an L2-Farside mission could take place as early as 2016.
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Tags: aerospace giant, apollo 8, apollo landings, astronauts, craters, daily mail, earth and the moon, far side of the moon, farside, lockheed martin, manned spacecraft, mission to mars, natural satellite, red planet, remote controlled robots, south pole, soviet probe, space radiation, stationary orbit, term space