Friday, December 16, 2005

NASA Ames To Run Lunar Missions

NASA has assigned Ames Research Center in Mountain View to manage at least four unmanned robotic missions to the moon, mapping the entire lunar surface and scouting out water and safe landing sites for the astronauts who are expected to venture there by 2018, space agency officials announced Monday.

Two of the unmanned missions are already being built, the officials said. At least two other ships -- and perhaps a fifth -- will precede the first human landings on the moon since the end of the Apollo space flights in 1972, said astrophysicist Christopher C. McKay, the robotic program's chief scientist at the Ames center.

Announcement of the Ames center's role in the long-range lunar exploration program was made in Washington by Scott Horowitz, NASA's associate director for exploration systems. Vernon (Chris) Christensen will be the program manager at Mountain View.

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