It’s not exactly a full-on moon base, but it would at least get us a good bit closer to our nearest celestial neighbor.
NASA is developing plans to potentially build a new, manned space habitat in cislunar orbit. Basically, this base would orbit the moon, much as the International Space Station (ISS) orbits the Earth. According to Space, the proposal aims to create a crew-tended cislunar habitat that can support astronauts for 30+ days, then shut down (in an unmanned state) in between missions. Much like the controversial Asteroid Redirect MIssion, this proposal would also (ideally) help spur the development of new technology that’ll eventually get us to Mars.
The plan calls for the outpost to be used to operate robots on the moon, and thanks to the more stable cislunar orbit, it wouldn’t require nearly as many adjustments as it takes to keep the ISS aloft. The station could also serve as a receiving site for lunar samples, testing, etc. Another perk (or problem): The moon is outside Earth’s protective magnetic field, so they have to figure out how to protect the astronauts from radiation (which will also be important when we go to Mars).
The proposal would call for a phased approach, with different components being sent up and connected over time. As we slowly try to creep away from our little blue marble, a cislunar base would be a logical, incremental step (though we’d prefer a full-on moon base, but whatevs) in that direction.
It’ll be interesting to see if this proposal can score any funding and support moving forward.