The plan would see a small human settlement established on the moon. Astronauts could use it to mine lunar resources while also learning how to survive away from Earth.
The scenario proposes the use of a "Deep Space Habitat," which would serve as a staging post. The habitat, a sort of mini-space station, could be placed at a so-called Lagrange point near the moon.
Lagrange points are locations where gravity balances itself out and where a space station could theoretically be stationary.
"We think that around the beginning of the '20s," Piedboeuf said, "we will have the capacity to send humans into lunar space."
Piedboeuf pointed out that
"In terms of human exploration, we are building the building blocks, the capability that we need to support human exploration," he said.
The recent retirement of the U.S. shuttle program was a critical moment _ the end of one era, and the start of the next one described in the Global Exploration Roadmap.
Now the Americans and Russians are developing long-range rockets and space capsules, like
But it's unclear whether the way to Mars will actually be led by national space agencies _ like
Private ventures are planning to get there first.
The flyby mission might even use an inflatable habitat that was developed by a Canadian company based in
But De Jong is still waiting to sign a deal.
"We're not formally under contract at this time," De Jong said.
"We've had preliminary discussions and hope to have something a little more formal in place soon."
Thin Red Line designed and built the hulls for two inflatable habitats, known as Genesis One and Genesis Two, for U.S.-based
They were launched in 2006 and 2007 and are still orbiting the Earth.
The inflatable habitat is made with Kevlar, which is used in bullet-proof vests and which also provides shielding from radiation _ which is one of the main dangers for astronauts in space.
And then there's the Mars One project, the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Landorp.
The plan is to send to send a few willing pioneers on a one-way trip in 2023, with no guarantee they will ever return to Earth.
Thousands of individuals of all ages and from around the world, including many Canadians, have applied by posting videos online explaining why they want to make what's been described as a suicide mission.
The plan includes creating a reality TV show.
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