New Lunar Science Center

April 11, 2008 9:48:31 PM PDT
You could call it Silicon Valley's first moon launch and it happened Friday at NASA Ames. The space agency took a major step toward putting a person on the moon again.

The moon made a rare daytime appearance for the dedication ceremony of the Lunar Science Institute at Ames Research Center.

It's been more than 30 years since the last manned moon mission. The opening of this institute shows the new dedication of NASA to go back to explore.

There is a prototype of a lunar exploration vehicle at the institute. These types of vehicles will be going to the moon in 2011 and be used for all types of science for all types of science, including settlements on the moon and beyond.

Understanding how to live for long periods on the moon and then expand to other places and hopefully in our lifetimes, that will be Mars," said Pete Worden, the NASA Ames Research Center Director.

Buzz Aldrin is no stranger to lunar science. He may be well known by today's youth as the man in the iconic MTV commercial.

"I think we really see a rebirth of overdue interest of lunar science," said Buzz Aldrin, a former astronaut.

Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon in 1969 and feels space should be a public and private mission.

"One government, NASA, going towards exploration and then another commercial, that's a partnership that aids and augments and fills the gap with the government," said Aldrin.

The Lunar Science Institute has a $40-50 million dollar annual budget and is hoping to have 50 scientists aiming for the moon by the end of the year.

Bay Area Congressman Mike Honda believes the money is well spent.

"Every penny that we spend here converts into new knowledge, new technology and for a lot of people, jobs," said Mike Honda (D) 15th Congressional District.

The institute is in charge of two robotic missions over the next couple of years that will help lead the way to manned missions by 2020.

Yvonne Cagle is the next generation of astronauts stationed here at Ames, and has set some pretty high goals.

"If you had the opportunity would you want to be on that mission to the moon?" asked ABC7's Matt Keller.

"Absolutely, absolutely, to come full circle like this tells you the power of dreams," said astronaut Yvonne Cagle.

It's one small building in Silicon Valley, one giant leap for lunar exploration.


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