Today NASA unveiled plans to return humans to the moon by 2018. Astronauts are expected to travel in a new spaceship that combines technologies developed for the space shuttle and Apollo programs. The last lunar landing was during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
The new plan will cost about 104 billion U.S. dollars over the next 13 years and help President George W. Bush achieve the vision for space exploration that he outlined on January 14, 2004. At that time Bush said he wanted humans back on the moon by 2020.
The centerpiece of NASA's return to the moon is a new spacecraft dubbed the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The CEV is designed to carry four astronauts to the moon for stays of up to seven days—until a moon base allows for longer expeditions.
The spacecraft can be piloted remotely. It can also be configured to ferry cargo loads and crews to the International Space Station and may eventually carry up to six astronauts to Mars, National Geographic reports.
NASA did not establish a timetable for missions to Mars in the announcement, which was made today in Washington, D.C.