KOHALA COAST (HawaiiNewsNow) - The United States and other countries are planning to return to the moon. And the road back to the lunar surface may go through Hawaii.
It's been nearly 45 years since the astronauts of Apollo 17 blasted off from the moon, marking the last time humans were on earth's satellite.
Now NASA, the European Space Agency and China have put a return to the moon as a priority.
"I'd like to get to the point where everybody agrees that this is what we need to build a spaceport on the moon, and everybody gets to go and everybody does it at the same time," said local computer entrepreneur Henk Rogers, who is also the chairman of the Board of Directors for PISCES, the Pacific International Center for Exploration Systems on the Big Island.
Rogers recently organized an International Moon Base Summit on the Kohala coast of the Big Island with government agencies, private companies and academic institutions to lay the groundwork. The participants included Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon.
Rogers believes Hawaii is the perfect place to practice.
"Hawaii has the most similar terrain," he said. "We have lava tubes, just like the moon does, but it's also made of the same stuff."
Rogers stressed that he won't build in the lava tubes, but he is looking for a spot on the Big Island, away from any human habitation -- or plants.
"Anywhere near Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa where there's straight up volcanic rock. Without any vegetation."
This won't be the first time the Big Island has been a stand-in for the moon. The Apollo moon landing astronauts trained for their missions here. And more recently, scientists have been part of simulated Mars missions on the slopes of Mauna Loa.
While the Big Island's terrain and geology has a lot to offer scientists, Rogers also believes Hawaii's culture is important.
"The culture of respect and openness and welcome, that's the cultured that needs to happen on the moon. So that's another reason why Hawaii's the right place."
Rogers doesn't have a price tag, but believes the moon base can be built for less than the cost of the International Space Station.
There's no firm timeline, but organizers are working on a 3D model of the International Moon Base. A master plan of the mission will be drafted early next year.