COLUMBIA, Md. — A shift in focus in NASA’s exploration plans to the moon won’t have an immediate effect on planning for the first flight of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, now expected no sooner than late 2019.
At the Oct. 5 inaugural meeting of the reconstituted National Space Council, Vice President Mike Pence announced that NASA would be charged with developing plans for a human return to the moon as a stepping stone for later missions to Mars.
“We will return American astronauts to the moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said at the meeting at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center. He directed NASA to develop a plan within 45 days to carry out that revised policy.
That plan will be based on ongoing studies already in progress at NASA, said Jason Crusan, head of NASA’s advanced exploration systems division, in an Oct. 10 presentation at the annual meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) here.
“We were already working on an exploration report that was required by Congress,” he said, referring to provisions in a ...