The Moon is in orbit around the Earth at an approximate distance of 377,000 km (234,000 miles). This relatively small distance means that existing propulsion systems can be adapted to place the first elements of a permanent base on the Moon. The Earth-Moon separation is small enough (a round trip speed-of-light time of less than three seconds) to permit operators on Earth to direct near-real-time command and control of tele-operated and semi-autonomous robotic devices on the lunar surface. Since the Moon always presents the same face to Earth as the result of "tidal locking'', direct communication links with devices on the lunar surface can be maintained continuously. These advantages, and the use of robotic devices, will allow for a rapid build-up of lunar base facilities as well as world-wide coordination of exploration and development efforts. For follow-on human operations, the proximity of the Moon to the Earth will allow astronauts to return to the Earth in three days in the event of emergencies.
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