Earth Moon system establishing a Solar System presence

The Earth's Moon is a natural satellite that the evidence suggests was created by a Mars-sized body that crashed into the Earth very early in the history of the Earth, about 4.5 billion years ago. The latest sky surveys give an age of our Solar System of about 4.7 billion years. With the Soviet, American, Japanese and Indian lunar mapping satellites, the Soviet automatic rovers, and the Apollo landings a significant amount of information has been gained about the Moon, [Spudis, 2003]. Even with this information, there is much more to be learned from exploring the Moon and understanding its geology and structure. During the 1960s there were plans to use the Apollo system for lunar exploration. ALSS, Apollo Logistics Support Systems and LESA (Lunar Exploration System for Apollo) were efforts within NASA to define the equipment and operational requirements to explore the Moon. Unfortunately none of these plans ever reached realization. Using the 1991 report to Congress entitled America on the Threshold, Thomas P. Stafford, former Apollo astronaut and Lieutenant-General USAF (Retd), as Chairman of the Synthesis Group, Space Exploration Initiative [Stafford, 1991] assembled a number of documents reasoning that we should return to the Moon. Figure 6.1 (see the color section) shows the cover and inside page from that report. Note that the Moon is shown in front of the planet Mars with the Solar System in the background. General Stafford provides the argument for the Moon as a stepping-stone to Mars and space. It is important to recognize it is not just a stepping stone, but an important operational near-Earth space base that does not require orbital re-boosting. A new effort dismisses the Moon as a key orbital asset but just a location visited nearly 40 years ago. Again avoiding a commitment to establishing a permanent natural orbital station as an Earth asset, the emphasis is a single high-visibility mission to a nearby asteroid [Covault, 2008]. The reasoning is we will become "Moonstruck" and ignore the deeper space manned missions. Instead, the Moon is very important as a base of operations for space exploration. The Moon can be a launching point for vehicles to explore our Solar System and nearby space. A non-rocket launcher that has difficulty being justified on Earth can readily provide lunar escape speed. Equipment, rovers, and habitats can be developed on the Moon for use on Mars. With the resources of an operational base, equipment that needs modification can be accomplished on the Moon without having to return the equipment to Earth. Systems can be modified until successful operation on the Moon provides high confidence of successful operation on Mars. One of the critical features of this natural satellite is that there are no propulsion requirements to keep it in stable orbit, unlike LEO orbital stations (MIR and International Space Station). Also unlike artificial orbital stations, the Moon is not devoid of indigenous resources, including gravity. It is possible to show the advantages of the Moon compared to an Earth orbital station.

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