Time to go back to the Moon! Yes I said the Moon and not Mars. We should first establish a orbiting space station going around the Moon that could serve as assembly/construction facility to produce a spacecraft that could go all the way to Mars.
Back in 2008 NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center wrote the following, “First, it could continue the exploration of the Moon, whose surface area is roughly that of North and South America combined. Six “landings” in North America would have given us only a superficial knowledge of this continent, and essentially none about its natural resources such as minerals, oil, water power, and soil. The Moon is a whole planet, so to speak, whose value is only beginning to be appreciated. The Moon is not only an interesting object of study, but a valuable base for study of the entire Universe, by providing a site for astronomy at all wavelengths from gamma rays to extremely long radio waves. This statement would have been unquestioned 30 years ago. But the succeeding decades of spectacular discoveries by space-based instruments, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, have led many astronomers such as Nobel Laureate John Mather to argue that the Moon can be by-passed, and that instruments in deep space at relatively stable places called Lagrangian points are more effective.” OK, we now know that we do not have a lot of knowledge on what natural resources could be mined on the Moon and yet we do know that it would yield some rare minerals.
Ian Crawford, a professor of planetary science and astrobiology at Birkbeck College, London said, “It’s entirely possible that when we really explore the Moon properly we will find higher concentrations of some of these materials … materials that are not resolvable by orbital remote sensing. The Moon might harbor concentrations of rare earth elements such as uranium and thorium — as well as other useful materials that we’re not aware of today — in small, geographically restricted areas. To explore the whole Moon at the level of detail required, that’s a big undertaking, but long term, we should be keeping an open mind to that.” What the good professor is saying that we need to physically put astronauts on the surface of the Moon in order to explore for valuable minerals.
Now you have to be told that there is water on the Moon. I bet you did not know that! Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator from NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California said, “Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit, we found a significant amount. We see evidence for the water in two instruments. And that’s what makes us really confident in our findings right now.” With the discovery of water this provides a way to generate both oxygen and hydrogen for the astronauts. The oxygen to breath and both the oxygen and hydrogen as needed fuel components to propel a spacecraft to Mars.
Going to the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars makes perfect sense and is a good way to test our ability to manufacture useful products from the minerals that exist there back on Earth. This whole venture could be a public-private enterprise as there is a good possibility of finding valuable minerals that could be transported back home.
That is my opinion- Jumpin Jersey Mike