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Shortcut to living in space

By Jackie Dent for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- In a move likely to change the face of space exploration, NASA has announced it hopes to establish a permanent base on the Moon by 2024.

Why? NASA says they have spent the last year asking over 1,000 people from around the world why humans should return to the moon and what do we want out of space exploration.

The poll of scientists, engineers, commercial entrepreneurs, space advocates and the public provided a raft of answers. A "global exploration strategy" has been developed and building a permanent international space station on the Moon is central to the plan.

Where exactly on the Moon? NASA has decided the Moon's south pole is probably the best spot as it is sunlit three-quarters of the year and there are potential resources to mine nearby.

Is Earth that bad? Apparently. Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the world's leading scientists, recently advised the only way humans will survive is if they leave earth and live on other planets around our sun. (He also advised genetically engineering humans so they stop fighting so much.)

How do I get out of here? For an initial assessment of what space is like, try booking with the Russian Space Agency, the sole provider of "spaceflight participant" seats. Unfortunately, the flight costs round U.S.$20 million. Madonna recently expressed interest in getting onto a flight during her recent Confessions tour in Moscow but she will have to wait -- it is booked out until 2009. So far only four people have been lucky enough to go: Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Gregory Olsen and Anousheh Ansari.

Is it dangerous trying to live in space? Totally. John Charles, a human spaceflight analyst for NASA, recently outlined the raft of dangers of surviving on the moon and mars to space.comexternal link.

These include: Lack of medical facilities mean a mundane injury could turn life-threatening; a high chance of going mad from living with a small group of people for months or years; bone and muscle loss from zero or reduced gravity; and deadly radiation particles, which are abundant beyond the Earth's orbit.

Charles believes the Moon is a good place to practice before humans attempt to get to Mars, as the Moon is only three days away, compared to the two or three years it takes to get to Mars. "We're foolish not to go to the Moon first," he told "because that's a place where we can practice with some degree of safety."


NASA has decided the Moon's south pole is probably the best spot.

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