Moon is a Way Station for NASA

HOUSTON -- The day after the U.S. space agency unveiled alunar exploration strategy calling for a Moon base, NASA Deputy Administrator ShanaDale stressed that Earth's nearest neighbor remains only a stepping stone tomore distant destinations.

"The Moon in our vision is but part of a grander schemethat will eventually take humans to Mars and beyond," Dale said in a Dec.5 speech opening the Second Space Exploration Conference here.

Dale said the global exploration strategy unveiled Dec. 4 atNASA's Johnson Space Center was still very much "a work in progress" butnonetheless distilled several main themes that will drive the agency'sexploration plans going in forward, including looking at the Moon as "afoothold to further exploration" and using the Moon as "a unique laboratory" toenable science.

She also stressed that international collaboration wouldremain a big part of NASA's strategy, telling the audience that spaceexploration would provide a "challenging, shared and peaceful activity" thatwill "enhance [the] collective security" of the participating nations.

She said NASA received input from more than 1,000individuals and 14 national space agencies in preparing its explorationstrategy.

When the conference ends Dec. 6, Dale said, NASA will host ameeting here of an international coordination team that has already met threetimes to discuss shared exploration goals.

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