According to a Monday story by the Associated Press, a senior design class at Purdue University has presented a plan to NASA, called Project Artemis, for a four year mission to explore the moon. The plan would land three groups of eight astronauts at to explore various parts of the moon. The price tag for this mission would be $550 billion. This means that even if NASA were interested in exploring the moon, it would not be likely to adopt the Purdue plan.
The plan is divided into three parts. The research and development phase would last from 2014 to 2022. At the end of this period a communication satellite system would be established in lunar orbit.
From 2022 to 2024 cargo, which would include robots, would be sent to three different locations to build three lunar bases. One would be at the Shackleton Crater near the lunar South Pole. One would be on the Lunar Farside. The third would be on the side of the moon facing the Earth located in a below ground lava tube,
In 2024 three crews of four middle aged couples each would travel to each of the prepared lunar bases. They would spend the next four years exploring the moon in the vicinity of their bases and performing experiments. The lunar effort is designed to be a practice run for a far more ambitious effort to explore and colonize Mars.
NASA has been admonished from a number of quarters for abandoning the moon, due to a directive from President Obama. The Purdue plan, though elaborate and very expensive, is meant to start a discussion of what constitutes a proper space exploration program. Many believe that the moon is a prerequisite for any effort to send people to Mars. Others believe that a lunar settlement of some kind would be worthwhile in and of itself, due to the moon’s resources and its unique scientific value.