Washington, June 24 : NASA engineers and scientists have completed a milestone review that will help determine the systems needed to return humans to the moon and establish a lunar outpost.
The three-day Lunar Capability Concept Review capped a nine-month study led by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington that incorporated science and exploration objectives earlier developed by representatives of 14 countries as part of the Global Exploration Strategy.
The study looked at possible lunar mission scenarios and compared them to the capabilities of the emerging Ares V heavy lift launch vehicle and the Altair lunar lander design concepts.
This review of those findings, led by the Constellation Program Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, established all the technical parameters that will be needed to begin Phase A, the first phase in preparing vehicle requirements.
According to Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program manager at Johnson, "We confirmed that Constellation's conceptual designs for both Ares V and Altair will enable us to land astronauts and cargo anywhere on the moon and to build an outpost supporting widespread exploration of the lunar surface."
"This extensive review proves we are ready for the next phase: taking these concepts and moving forward to establish mature requirements," he added.
According to Hanley, the study bears out the strength of the initial concepts showing the vehicles can be built and delivered in time to return humans to the moon by 2020.
The review refined early configurations of the Ares V rocket to ensure its capability to deliver the Altair lunar lander, four astronauts and cargo anywhere on the moon and return the crew to Earth at any time.
The Ares V will stand about 381 feet tall and be able to send more than 156,600 pounds of cargo and components into orbit to the moon, and later to Mars or other destinations.
Altair will be capable of landing four astronauts anywhere on the moon, providing life support and a base for the first week-long surface exploration missions, and returning the crew to the Orion spacecraft for the ride home to Earth.
A variant of the lunar lander will serve as an autonomous cargo carrier, taking modular outpost components, lunar rovers, and scientific equipment to the moon's surface.
Phase A will culminate in a Systems Requirements Review for NASA's lunar transportation architecture, tentatively planned for 2010.