Lawmakers propose return trip to the moon, permanent base on planet

Returning to the moon is a personal issue for Posey — he worked on the Apollo program at the Kennedy Space Center, and was laid off by NASA when that program ended. The last moon landing was made by the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, 40 years ago last December.

"In order to explore deeper into space — to Mars and beyond — a moon presence offers us the ability to develop and test technologies to cope with the realities of operating on an extraterrestrial surface," Posey said Wednesday.

Posey added that so far, a dozen Americans have explored a section of the moon smaller than the National Mall in Washington, D.C. He said there are still minerals, ice deposits and other national resources that could be used to sustain an outpost.

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Posey introduced a similar bill in the last Congress, which said the goal of the moon base would be to "promote exploration, commerce, science, and United States preeminence in space as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations."

While technology was seen as a major hurdle to the first moon landing in 1969, money is likely to be a major hurdle to any return trip. In the 1960s, NASA's budget was a much larger percentage of the federal budget than it is today.

And in terms of real purchasing power, NASA's budget is a little more than half of the budget levels in the 1960s when NASA was preparing to land on the moon.

NASA's budgets have hovered around $17 billion or $18 billion for the last few years. During a time of intense budgetary pressures, it's not clear that Congress could find the money to put NASA on a path to another moon shot, let alone creating a permanent moon base.

Posey's bill from the 112th Congress said NASA's budget would have to be "consistent" with achieving the goal of another moon landing, but did not propose specific numbers.

This year, Posey's bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), John Culberson (R-Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Pete Olson (R-Texas), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Steve Stockman (R-Texas) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

— This story was updated at 9:32 a.m.

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