Trump Wants NASA to Build a $2.7 Billion Lunar Space Station
Five years from now could see humans living near the moon. Part of President Trump's 2019 NASA budget proposal allocates $2.7 billion between 2019-2023 to construct the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.
This structure would be similar to the International Space Station, except it would orbit the Moon instead of the Earth. "The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will give us a strategic presence in cislunar space," explained William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources. We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars."
The way the budget breaks down in the proposal, an average of $545 million would be spent on the project each year, with the goal of having the Gateway ready for tenants by 2023. The details of the platform's missions and technical specifications still need to be hashed out but, according to NASA, Gateway crew members would live and work there for between 30 to 60 days at a time.
All of this depends on whether Congress approves the budget. The proposal would mean a $370 million increase for NASA over last year's budget – but according to Space.com it would also: end funding for ISS in 2025, cancel several Earth-science missions, kill NASA's Office of Education, and do away with the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) which was supposed to launch in the 2020s to study exoplanets and dark energy.
"The administration's budget for NASA is a nonstarter," Senator Bill Nelson informed the Miami Herald. "If we're ever going to get to Mars with humans on board and return them safely, then we need a larger funding increase for NASA." Nelson also spoke out about the proposed cuts. "The proposal would also end support for the International Space Station in 2025 and make deep cuts to popular education and science programs... Turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space at a time when we're pushing the frontiers of exploration makes no sense."
As with so many things in government, this appears to be a case of two steps forward, one step back. It remains to be seen which parts of the budget Congress will approve. Only then will we have some idea of our future in space.