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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Plans to build bases on moon "long overdue"

A Swiss space expert has welcomed Nasa's decision to build a permanently occupied base on the moon.

Bruno Stanek, who covered the 1969 Apollo landing for Swiss television, told swissinfo that for a comparable amount of money the space station programme had led to a "dead end".

Unveiling the agency's plan for a return to the moon, Nasa said on Monday it would establish an international base camp on one of the moon's poles, permanently staffing it by 2024, four years after astronauts land there.

"This was long overdue," Stanek said. "The International Space Station and the sophisticated ? and luxurious! ? space shuttle always ate up a lot of the Nasa budget. The new plans for flights to the moon and beyond just want to spend the same limited funds in a more efficient and focused way."

The plans represent a sweeping departure from the Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and will open a new phase of space exploration after the shuttles are retired in 2010.

Nasa said the first step in establishing the base would be a new generation of lunar spaceships, which would undergo tests from 2009.

Manned flights would begin in 2014 and astronauts would land on the moon for the first time since the Apollo mission of 1972 in 2020.

Read the whole article at NZZ Online

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