WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- NASA has proposed a candidate for its next major mission, a "gateway" spacecraft on the far side of the moon as a staging base for moon and Mars missions.
The spacecraft would hover in orbit on the far side of the moon, support a small permanent crew and function as "stepping stone" for missions to the lunar surface and possible flights to Mars.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden briefed the White House earlier this month on details of the proposed "gateway," but it was unclear if any administration support for the mission was forthcoming, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The NASA outpost, which would probably utilize parts left over from the $100-billion International Space Station, would be located at a point known as the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2, a spot about 38,000 miles from the moon where the combined gravities of the Earth and moon are equal in strength, allowing an outpost to "stick" at that point with very little power needed to keep it in place.
The giant rocket and space capsule NASA is developing as a replacement for the retired space shuttles, scheduled for a first flight in 2017, would be the vehicle for delivering the "gateway" spacecraft, space agency documents show.
The price tag -- about which NASA has said nothing -- could be a stumbling block, as it's unlikely NASA in coming years will get any more than its current budget of $17.7 billion and could, in fact, face further cuts in the name of deficit reduction, the Times said.