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The History of Lunar Base Planning, from Buzz Aldrin to Artemis

As humans, we have always desired to explore our surroundings. We have also spent thousands of years looking up into the night sky at the Moon, wondering what that luminous white body held. As far back as the 1800s, people have been considering the possibility of living on the lunar surface, so it should come as no surprise that the United States has been making plans for a lunar outpost since 1958 – well before Kennedy’s Moonshot program.

Originally, the U.S. Air Force was tasked with sending people to the Moon. They were looking at establishing some sort of a presence by 1964 in a project that eventually morphed into NASA’s Mercury Program. At around the same time, the U.S. Army, with the help of German V-2 rocket scientists, was working on its own manned Moon missions. That program eventually led to the Saturn V moonrocket that took Apollo astronauts to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Black and white image of Earth taken by astronauts from the Moon

The first image of the Earth taken by astronauts from the Moon. Credit: NASA

Despite the fact that no humans walked on the Moon until 1969, NASA worked diligently to send robotic craft to lunar orbit and the lunar surface throughout the 1960s. These spacecraft and landers helped pave the way for orbiting and landing humans. Subsequent unmanned missions to the Moon have helped scientists on Earth better understand the lunar surface, its geology, and its potential uses as both an exploration outpost and a means to sending humans to Mars.

Now, with NASA’s Artemis Program, the U.S. is looking to send humans back to the surface of the Moon, with the potential for long-term habitation. Building upon the success of the Apollo Program and the research conducted by various NASA agencies since the 1970s, the Artemis Program seeks to take advantage of engineering and scientific advances over the last half-century to utilize the Moon for research, mining, and as a base for other missions throughout the Solar System.

For the Artemis missions to be successful, NASA is relying on private industry in the U.S. to help supply the engineering and technology that will be necessary for long-term human habitation and exploration. Motiv Space Systems, having demonstrated its engineering capabilities on previous successful NASA missions, has positioned itself to provide several technologies to suit the needs of NASA and its international partners on the Artemis Program.

A goal of the Artemis Program is for astronauts to establish a base near the south pole of the Moon. To do this, it will be necessary to use robotic equipment that is capable of operating in the harsh lunar environment. Motiv has developed a robotic arm that will meet these needs, and looks forward to providing this capability to future manned and unmanned missions to the Moon.

Additionally, having been contracted to develop autonomous robotic technology for on-orbit construction, Motiv has been working to develop the types of robotic systems that will be necessary for autonomous construction of a lunar habitat, which will free astronauts to spend their time and energy on other tasks. In so doing, Motiv will be helping NASA achieve its goal of establishing a long-term human presence on the surface of the Moon. NASA is building on what it has learned since 1958, when it first began to develop plans to send humans to the Moon. But the space agency is also relying on the technological know-how of companies like Motiv to help achieve the fundamental success of the Artemis Program.

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