NASA is considering building an outpost near the moon, according to reports.
Leonard David has announced that NASA is "pressing forward on assessing the value of a 'human-tended waypoint' near the far side of the moon." Memos from NASA reveal that a team is being put together to plan an exploration of the spot in space known as the Earth-moon libration point 2, or EML-2.
"Libration points and other cis-lunar orbits offer operations sites within relatively easy return to Earth," explained Harley Thronson, senior scientist for NASA. "Our recommendations have been to demonstrate the capabilities for safe, comfortable, and productive human activities in free space. These would be in advance of the extremely long voyages proposed for beyond the Earth-moon system."
"Once this was demonstrated, humans and robots could then descend into the deep lunar gravity well and explore the moon's surface, perhaps supported by growing capabilities in free space near the moon," Thronson added.
See a demonstration of a possible lunar outpost here:
"Interest in a mission to the Earth-moon L2 region is growing at NASA and among international partners. Orion and some of the ISS supply vehicles would be capable of supporting missions in L2 halo orbits with straightforward modifications," stated Josh Hopkins, a space exploration architect at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
An outpost near the moon would allow greater control over free space and provide a base for further exploration and experiments.
"Once you learn how to do it at the moon, you can do it all over the solar system," said Dan Lester, scientist at the University of Texas. "It basically increases the number of possible exploration designations for humans, because it's not about putting human flesh on a site, but about putting human cognition there."
NASA has deemed EML-2 a "leading option" for exploration since it will allow space stations to park vehicles and other instruments in that location.
"EML-2 could serve as a gateway for capability-driven exploration of multiple destinations, such as near-lunar space, asteroids, the moon, the moons of Mars and, ultimately, Mars itself," reports David.