While NASA waits with bated breath for the Curiosity rover's arrival on the Martian surface, engineers at NASA and the Canadian Space Agency are already at work testing a new lunar rover designed to seek out water and other natural resources closer to home. The rover payload, known as the Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction (RESOLVE), is designed to spend nine days prospecting for water resources on the moon sometime in the future.
The idea behind RESOLVE is to determine if there is actually enough accessible water on the moon to enable a prolonged manned mission there, or perhaps even to set up a permanent manned base near one of the lunar poles. Previous missions like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite have returned data that suggests the moon's polar regions contain deep craters where water ice lives in shadowed recesses where it won't evaporate. But it's unclear exactly how much water is there, or if it can be tapped by humans that might potentially land there in the future.
During its nine-day mission, RESOLVE is designed to sample the regolith, drilling into the lunar surface and heating sampled material to determine what kind of water vapor and other compounds are present. Water, of course, is a key enabler for any kind of manned presence in space. Not only is drinking water necessary, but it can be split into hydrogen and oxygen to create fuel to run generators or to power spacecraft. So in other words, RESOLVE is basically designed to scout for an ideal location for a future manned return to the moon--something that in and of itself is a pretty amazing prospect.
Moreover, RESOLVE is a platform ripe for adaptation. With some design tweaks, engineers say it could easily be converted to a Mars or asteroid prospector, opening up the possibility for future manned missions to those bodies as well. NASA is taking the rover to Mauna Kea in Hawaii next month to put it through the paces in the simulated moon environment provided by the volcanic landscape there.
Lunar colonization, again? No, don't like it, shelve it. Use the moon as an anchor for a massive space station, possibly equator spanning.
Mars, people, MARS!!!! It is MUCH more useful as a colony, asteroid mining, deep space missions refueling, and the occasional deep space manufacturing plant. But the moon is less than worthwhile. A base on it's surface would be used for a mars colony, and then be abandoned. Left to the dust to which it came.
If only we could land on, bag and safely control\deliver onto the Moon or even Mars a comet with it being composed largely of water. All that water to drink and oxygen to make from the water. But of course, I am just science fiction daydreaming here, sigh. ;)
Finally...prospecting for useful resources. After all the money NASA has wasted on E.T. (snipe) hunting....
This is exciting news.
@TeslasDisciple: We have to crawl before we can run. The moon is perfect for developing technologies we will need to get to Mars. Also, because of its low gravity, it makes a million times more sense to launch heavy space missions from the moon opposed to Mars.
If there is enough water on the Moon, we will have ample fuel already practically in orbit (damn near for free) to go to other planets, which is one of the biggest challenges facing us today.
3DTOPO, I respect what you posted, and agree with some, but I just think that a lunar colony would crumble slowly, as the settlers flew off to better work on Earth or mars.
The moon is just a costly stepping stone, while you do bring up good points, and I agree that the water on the moon would make it easier to move about, mars is more logistically sound. It's like a FOB (forward operating base for those not militarily sound), it is in a tactical position about halfway in our solar system. Asteroids provide water for space flight, and, if the system I designed is accepted, provide plenty of resources to build the colony and the space craft, and then still have plenty to ship to Earth. From mars, we can easily move about our solar system, sending unmanned and later manned flights to the moons of Jupiter, and then to Saturn. The moon is, as I before stated, just a costly stepping stone
And robot, that's feasible, and possibly efficient for even deeper deep space flight, wrangling the comets towards way points where they would be mined, filtered, and then distributed.