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Space Blog

Obama cuts manned moon budget

Sir Martin Sweeting :
So President Obama has scrapped the US plans for a manned return to the Moon. As the world claws it way out of recession, many might see this decision as being financially prudent. However, the exploration of the lunar surface is still very much on the agenda. But it won’t be man making one small step next time, it will be a robot!
Several nations are planning robotic lunar missions including India, China, Korea and interestingly, the USA. And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense because robotic lunar missions are much more cost effective than manned missions, although not so emotive. Of course, robotic exploration is nothing new with NASA and ESA both utilising this technology, but it’s still very expensive. The price tag for the European ExoMars programme is around ‚¬1Bn which is a lot of money in any currency. But does robotic exploration have to be this expensive?
MoonLITE Orbiter Penetrator, designed by SSTL for the design phase of the UK government's MoonLITE mission for a low-cost orbiter carrying scientific lunar surface penetrators and a communications relay payload to the Moon in 2014.
At SSTL we don’t think so. We think it is possible to knock a "0" off the cost of mounting lunar robotic exploration mission by simply employing the same, well founded, production techniques that SSTL use to reduce the cost of designing and building Earth-orbiting small satellites.
Currently, there is enormous interest in the moon, particularly with the prospect of finding water, the key perhaps to a permanent manned lunar base in the future. The LRO and LCROSS missions are currently surveying the lunar surface to identify future landing sites. Now is the time to mount a low cost robotic mission to Moon in order to prove the technology and its suitability for other more distant planetary missions.





09 February 20100 Comments1 Comment

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