Fly me to the moon

Man last walked on the lunar surface in 1972, and now Nasa's top brass have announced a $104bn programme to return there by 2018 - in spacecraft bearing a remarkable resemblance to the original Apollo vehicles. Here's how they plan to do it


DEPARTURE STAGE

Uses a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen propulsion system. Needed to leave Earth's orbit, and is discarded once the crew are on their way to the moon.

LUNAR LANDER

This will launch separately from the crew in a heavy-lift rocket, along with the departure stage. The crew exploration vehicle will dock with the lander and departure stage and head for the moon. Three days later, once in lunar orbit, the astronauts will climb into the lander and leave the capsule to wait for them in orbit.

CREW EXPLORATION VEHICLE

The capsule is a similar shape to the Apollo spacecraft, but is much larger, its outside diameter of 5.5 metres giving it more than three times the volume of the Apollo capsules. This design will reduce re-entry loads, increase landing stability, permit the craft to land anywhere on the moon - Apollo was restricted to the moon's equator - and allow up to six astronauts to be carried.



THE PIONEERS - AND THE NEXT GENERATION

The ascent stage of the Apollo 11 lunar module departs the surface of the moon in July 1969, carrying 'Buzz' Aldrin and Neil Armstrong back to the Apollo Command/Service Module in lunar orbit. The module was piloted by Michael Collins, who had remained there while his colleagues walked on the moon. An artist's impression of the modern version (left), described by Nasa as "Apollo on steroids". After a seven-day stay on the moon, the astronauts will depart in the top part of the module, the ascent stage, and dock with the crew capsule before heading back to earth.

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