Washington, July 22: According to a NASA-funded study, humans may be able to live on the moon in a little more than a decade from now. The study outlines a plan to again take human missions to the moon, media reported.
The announcement was made on July 20 -- the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 crew's first steps on the lunar surface -- The Verge (an American news and technology media network) reported.
The, study, undertaken by NexGen Space LLC, lays out a detailed roadmap for when and how to take the next step for a landing.
A robotic return to the moon could happen as soon as 2017, if NASA were to adopt the plan right away. Rovers would scout the lunar poles for hydrogen in 2018 and prospecting could begin by 2019 or 2020.
Robotic construction of a permanent base would begin in 2021 in anticipation of landing humans on the moon later that year, it said.
The study said the space agency can do it all within the existing budget for human spaceflights. The way for NASA to do this is to adopt the same method that it is using for re-supplying the International Space Station - a public-private partnership with companies like SpaceX, Orbital ATK or the United Launch Alliance.
SpaceX currently charges NASA about $4,750 for every kilogram of supplies sent to orbit aboard its Falcon 9 rocket, far less than the cost by the Apollo-era Saturn V ($46,000 per kilogram) or even the space shuttle ($60,000 per kilogram).
While the study does use SpaceX's next generation rocket, the Falcon Heavy, as an example in its plans to get to the moon, SpaceX claims the Falcon Heavy will be as cheap or cheaper per kilogram than the Falcon 9.
NASA is already planning to go back to the moon with its next generation rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), but there are no plans to land.
By using commercial partners, NASA could reduce the number of planned SLS launches from 12 to around three, reducing the cost of the programme while still developing the technologies necessary to support it, the study said.
The study was vetted by a 21-person independent review team made up of former members of NASA's administration, members of the commercial spaceflight community and four former NASA astronauts.