According to Blastr, the recent hearings on the NASA reform and the future of the #Space agency featured suggestions from some of the panelists about what shape that the post-Obama space program might take. Everyone was agreed that the ultimate goal for the next two decades would be American boots on the Martian soil. However, what might happen in the near term was of interest.

The International Space Station, begun by a proposal by then President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and completed over 20 years later, is due to reach the end of it operating life in 2024. One idea floated by Eileen Collins, the first female space shuttle commander before the committee consisted of privatizing the facility and creating a “space hotel.” The term may be a misnomer as it suggests the rich and adventurous having stays in the hab module for the view and the zero gravity.

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A private group might manage the ISS and accept researchers as paying customers. Travel to and from the ISS is already in the process of being privatized, so only the upkeep and possibly enhancement of the orbiting laboratory would have to happen.

Mike Griffin, a former NASA administrator, added that a moon base would also be a good idea in the near term. NASA had been tasked with returning to the moon under the Constellation Program, which Griffin managed. President Obama canceled the return to the moon for sending astronauts directly to Mars. Griffin suggested that the moon would be a great place for astronauts to practice Mars surface operations. Indeed, a stay on the moon sandwiched between two tours on the International Space Station would simulate a Mars mission nicely.

Studies conducted by MIT and a think tank called Next-Gen Space have suggested that a return to the moon would make the Journey to Mars more simple and cheaper.

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The reason for that is that the moon contains large deposits of water ice in shadowed regions of craters at the North and South Poles. Water consists of hydrogen and oxygen, which are also components of rocket fuel. The more rocket fuel that can be refined on the moon, the less that has to be carried out of the Earth’s steep gravity well.

A number of other countries are interested in returning to the moon as well. The European Space Agency is mulling over the idea of a “moon village” where several national space agencies and commercial firms would band together for mutual support and benefit to live and work on the moon. Commercial companies, like Moon Express, are interested in mining the moon for resources.

Of course, what shape the space program takes after Barack Obama departs the White House will depend on who follows him. But some worthwhile ideas are already being discussed. #News #Government