Melbourne: First moon base may be set up by private companies, not NASA, a study by space habitat developer Bigelow Aerospace has revealed.
The study, commissioned by NASA, is intended as a supplemental roadmap for the U.S. government as it charts human space initiatives beyond the International Space Station, a permanently staffed research complex that orbits about 250 miles above Earth, Discovery News reported.
The first part of the study surveyed about two dozen companies and research organizations about their ideas, plans, capabilities, schedules and costs for upcoming space initiatives.
A draft report was submitted to NASA on Thursday -- 40 days ahead of schedule-and has not yet been publicly released.
NASA intends to use the information to figure out where it can collaborate with private space initiatives and where it might, for example, entirely skip an expensive research and development program and just buy services or hardware commercially.
For example, after the International Space Station is removed from orbit, NASA could be a tenant aboard a Bigelow Aerospace-owned habitat for any microgravity research or technology development it wants to do.
"We think station can fly to 2028," NASA`s head of space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, told reporters during a press conference on Thursday.
After that, "we won`t be in the business of maintaining and operating a facility in low-Earth orbit. We believe that there will be a service available for us and the private sector," he said.
NASA expects to release the first part of Bigelow`s study within a few weeks. The second section is expected to be finished this fall.