The moon landing was one of the 20th century's defining moments and marked the United States' greatest victory in the space race. Now, nearly 50 years later, NASA and other groups are planning to use the moon as a base of operations to explore Mars and other worlds.
Running On Empty
For a rocket to be launched into space, it must travel fast enough to escape the Earth's gravitational pull, which is no easy feat considering rockets need to reach speeds of 25,000 mph. This problem is complicated by the fact that rockets will need to be stocked with all of the fuel necessary to make their journey as there is currently no way for them to refuel in space.
To this end, some have speculated that the moon would make an ideal refueling station for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the moon's gravity is a mere 1/6th of what it is on Earth, meaning that rockets would require much less energy in order to launch.
The second appealing aspect of a moon base is the fact that there is already ice on the moon that can be used to create rocket fuel. NASA has discussed similar mining plans for asteroids, but the moon's stability makes a safer option.
In fact, Lockheed Martin and Boeing have partnered together to form the United Launch Alliance, which aims to build a lunar refueling station capable of supporting 1,000 people. The United Launch Alliance has not set an exact date, but it hopes to have the station ready to go within the next three decades.
The Deep Space Gateway To Mars
In recent years, few things have captured the public's imagination quite like sending people to Mars. Interest isn't confined to astronauts either. Many ordinary people have shown an interest in being the first colonists to set foot on the red planet.
As fascinating as exploring Mars might be, the planet's distance does present some problems in terms of transporting people and goods. That's where NASA's lunar space station comes in.
Initially, NASA plans on using its lunar station as a base to conduct research and work to "develop new techniques and apply innovative approaches to solving problems in preparation for longer-duration missions far from Earth."
In terms of the expedition to Mars, NASA eventually hopes to be able to use the Deep Space Gateway as a waystation and resupply point for rockets heading to Mars.
A Home On The Moon
Obviously, some people have discussed the possibility of colonizing the moon before making the leap to Mars. Building a permanent settlement on the moon carries some key advantages over Mars. For starters, it is less risky to send someone to the moon than it is to Mars since we've done it several times.
In terms of logistics, the moon will be much easier to resupply than Mars. Several tech companies including Amazon, have already begun work on ways to deliver goods to the moon. Just don't expect your stuff to be Prime-eligible.