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When America returns to the moon to permanently settle it, Thiokol's gigantic boosters probably will provide most of the thrust.

The present generation of rocket booster engines - presumably those built by Thiokol near Brigham City - should lift America back to a permanent presence on the moon, according to William R. Claybaugh II, director of external initiatives for NASA's Office of Exploration.Claybaugh outlined plans for a new rocket and the support facilities needed for a permanent moon base, during a keynote address in a space conference for students at the University of Utah Monday.

A former resident of Cache Valley, where he headed a telecommunications company, Claybaugh is now based in Washington, D.C. He spoke at the opening session of "Pathway to Mars," a weeklong gathering of outstanding high school students and their science teachers from Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Georgia and Washington, D.C.

The sessions, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain NASA Space Grant Consortium, continue through Saturday and are free to the public.

Three years ago, President Bush announced the country was starting an effort to return to and colonize the moon, Claybaugh said.

"You need a really big rocket - there's no way around it," he told the scores of students, meeting in the U.'s Engineering and Mines Classroom Building.

"We're not building new engines to go to the moon."

Instead, the rocket would be a "stretch" version of the Saturn V that took astronauts to the moon in 1969. It would use an extra stage at the top and two strap-on shuttle boosters, each capable of developing 3 million pounds of thrust.

The Redesigned Solid Rocket Motor manufactured by Thiokol in Box Elder County delivers 3.3 million pounds at liftoff, said Thiokol's Steve Lawson.

Claybaugh said a large lander would deliver 50,000 pounds to the lunar surface, including a crew of four. They would link up with a laboratory landed by remote control, to spend 45 days on the moon.

Moon landings in the future will be controlled by a navigation system "both in orbit and tied to the surface," Claybaugh said.

"We can definitely build the vehicles to get to the moon" and do it within present budgetary guidelines, he said.

"When we can do this depends on the Congress of these United States." If Congress authorized the program immediately, October 1993 is the soonest that NASA could start the program.

Working within NASA's present budget, return flights to the moon could begin around the year 2005 or 2006, he said.

"There's an enormous amount of research to be done." In 1995, NASA expects to use unmanned vehicles to examine soils and minerals on the moon, and the following year a high-resolution map should be made of Earth's companion.

The moon is particularly rich in titanium, and a large iron ore body was discovered recently.

Why should America return to the moon? asked a member of the audience.

"There is more land on the moon than all North and South America," he said. "The frontier is open, it's four days away."