NASA looks to build moon base network for upcoming Artemis missions

The space agency aims to establish a permanent presence on the lunar surface with its Artemis program.
Chris Young
An artist's impression of NASA's moon base.
An artist's impression of NASA's moon base.


NASA may build several moon bases for its upcoming Artemis missions instead of the one Artemis Base Camp advertised when the space agency first revealed its plans for colonizing the moon, a report from reveals.

During a press briefing on Monday, April 17, Jim Free, NASA's associate administrator for exploration systems development, told reporters, "It's really hard to say we're going to have a single base camp. Because if we miss a launch window, we might have to wait a month to go back to that place."

NASA considers a network of moon bases

NASA's plans for a single Artemis Base Camp at the lunar south pole were first revealed back in 2020. The space agency aims to send humans back to the lunar surface no earlier than 2025 on its Artemis III mission.

Subsequent Artemis missions will work towards building a permanent human colony on the moon that will serve as a stepping stone for human exploration of Mars as well as other regions of the Solar System.

Now, it turns out that NASA may be looking to expand those initial plans by working with international partners to establish a series of moon bases.

At the press conference, Free explains that NASA is analyzing the potential benefits of building several moon camps with the aid of Artemis program partners such as the European Space Agency (ESA).

One of the key benefits would likely be that it would add redundancy to missions that could face catastrophic emergencies on the moon. According to Free, it would also allow the Artemis program to maximize its scientific potential.

"So we can maybe have two or three sites to go to that help our science diversity because the reason we're doing Artemis in the first place is for science," Free said. 

When will NASA establish its moon bases?

NASA and other countries' space agencies — including China and Russia — are targeting exploration of the lunar south pole due to the fact that it is known to contain large amounts of water ice that could be harvested for future colonies.

It will be some time, though, before NASA looks to build a network of moon bases. "We're probably looking at the later missions,  like [Artemis] 7, 8, and 9, where we're starting to look at adding permanent habitation on the surface," Free explained.

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