Private Firm Sets Sights on First Moon Base

Robert Bigelow discusses a model of a Bigelow Aerospace lunar outpost. BIGELOW AEROSPACE
MAY 24, 2013 11:52 AM ET
Discovery News

NASA may not be going to the moon anytime soon, but private companies plan to do so, a study by space habitat developer Bigelow Aerospace shows.

The study, commissioned by NASA, is intended as a supplemental roadmap for the U.S. government as it charts human space initiatives beyond the International Space Station, a permanently staffed research complex that orbits about 250 miles above Earth.

“Instead of being the typical approach where we put together all the plans and we ask for participation, we wanted to look at it the other way and see what’s available,” NASA’s head of space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, told reporters during a press conference on Thursday.

“This is a holistic kind of effort,” added Robert Bigelow, president and founder of the Nevada-based firm that bears his name. “It’s intended to encompass as much (information) as possible and it’s intended to evolve and to grow.”

The first part of the study surveyed about two dozen companies and research organizations about their ideas, plans, capabilities, schedules and costs for upcoming space initiatives. A draft report was submitted to NASA on Thursday -- 40 days ahead of schedule -- and has not yet been publicly released.

NASA intends to use the information to figure out where it can collaborate with private space initiatives and where it might, for example, entirely skip an expensive research and development program and just buy services or hardware commercially.

For example, after the International Space Station is removed from orbit, NASA could be a tenant aboard a Bigelow Aerospace-owned habitat for any microgravity research or technology development it wants to do.

Story continues here: news.discovery.com

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