Post-election rumor: next NASA mission will be beyond moon

We've known since February that the leading candidate for NASA's next major manned mission is a station located at the L2 Earth-Moon Lagrange Point out beyond the far side of the moon. The latest rumors suggest that this mission was probably approved by the Obama administration, and now that he's been reelected, it has a good chance of actually happening.

Long term (perhaps by 2030 or 2035), humans are headed for Mars. Medium term (perhaps by 2025), humans are headed for an asteroid. But before all that, within the next decade or so, the next logical stepping stone is probably going to be a manned space station outside of the Earth-moon system. Or at least, that's NASA's plan, provided that the agency receives enough government funding and support. Pre-election, things were less certain, since Mitt Romney would likely have made some substantial changes to NASA's mission. But with Barack Obama back in office for another four years, it's now sounding like NASA can go ahead with plans to send humans out into deep space.

Before humans stray too far from home, NASA wants to take its fancy new Orion capsule and powerful Space Launch System and park out in space past the moon for a while to see how to keep humans from dying or going crazy after extended stays in deep space. While they're out there, astronauts could also have some fun by teleoperating lunar rovers on the moon's dark side.

All of this will get kicked off in 2017 with the first (unmanned) launch of the SLS, and the trans-lunar mission could come as early as 2021. Supposedly, this is all more or less within NASA's existing budget structure, and although a lot can happen between now and the 2020s, we're definitely on an optimistic and exciting path towards space.

Via NBC News

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