Four Things We’ve Learned About NASA’s Planned Base Camp on the Moon

Humans haven’t set foot on the moon in more than a half century, but NASA’s Artemis program is going to send them back with a series of missions beginning in early September. When the first astronaut plants her boots in the lunar soil in 2025 as part of Artemis III, assuming the current schedule holds, it will be the start of an even more ambitious project than sending humans back to the moon: NASA plans to construct a base camp somewhere among the gray dust and craggy rocks of the moon’s south pole.

This lunar outpost will allow the Artemis missions to eventually shatter Apollo 17’s record for longest stay on the moon (74 hours, 59 minutes, 38 seconds), while serving as a jumping off point for in-depth exploration.

NASA says the camp is going to start small, only facilitating missions of a week or two, but as the camp grows in size and sophistication the agency hopes to sustain crews for up to two months at a time. Current plans call for a lunar cabin, an open-top rover similar to the kind used in the Apollo missions and something akin to an RV that would provide mobility while allowing astronauts to live and work away from the base for days or weeks at a time.

“On each new trip, astronauts are going to have an increasing level of comfort with the capabilities to explore and study more of the Moon than ever before,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human spaceflight at NASA, in a statement. “With more demand for access to the moon, we are developing the technologies to achieve an unprecedented human and robotic presence 240,000 miles from home. Our experience on the moon this decade will prepare us for an even greater adventure in the universe—human exploration of Mars.”

Central to NASA’s vision for the Artemis Base Camp is finding and extracting resources from the moon itself. This will lighten the load of rockets blasting off from Earth with supplies and potentially allow astronauts to remain on the moon for longer periods of time. These resources may include water ice, oxygen, metals or building materials made from lunar dust or rocks.

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