Study: NASA should return to moon before going to Mars

By Jerry Hume, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, July 25, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

Brevard County could once again become a moon port, a new study suggests.

The NexGen Space study, partly funded by NASA, suggests astronauts should return to the Moon before going to Mars.

The report found NASA could send astronauts to the lunar surface in five to seven years for $10 billion. Previous estimates were closer to $100 billion.

The study suggests NASA should use commercial rockets from SpaceX and ULA to launch astronauts to the moon at a more affordable cost.

Then in the 2030s, a permanent moon base would be established, where commercial ventures would mine for resources that could be used for rocket fuel propellant.

Former NASA executives reviewed the study, saying a sort of gas station could be established in lunar orbit, where a NASA rocket could re-fuel on its way to Mars.

Former NASA Program Manager Jim Ball, who now runs Spaceport Strategies, was a part of the independent review team.

“Lunar resources reduce the risk and cost of going to Mars,” Ball said. “If you can provide propellant for those missions going to Mars by mining that propellant and providing it from the moon, you can save a dramatic amount of money.”

Currently, NASA doesn’t have any plans to return to the Moon.

Instead it plans to launch its Orion and Space Launch System rocket to an asteroid and eventually Mars.

If a return to the moon happens, Ball says that would mean several more commercial launches from the Space Coast and that could create more jobs.