NASA's Planned Space Station By the Moon Will Be Ready in the Next Decade

Saturday, 21 April 2018 - 2:47PM
Space
Moon
NASA
Saturday, 21 April 2018 - 2:47PM
NASA's Planned Space Station By the Moon Will Be Ready in the Next Decade
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NASA
A lot of NASA's funding tends to be shaky right now, with budget allocations for some projects being slashed without a clear reason from Congress. 

But a return trip to the Moon has never been in any danger, and seems to be one of the few NASA projects with the support of the White House (Trump apparently likes the Moon). And during a Space Symposium conference in Colorado this past week, NASA's Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier announced that work on their Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will begin next year.

Specifically, the first bits of spending toward assembling and planning out the space station will begin in early 2019, with power and propulsion being the first priority, and work beginning afterward on the habitable areas a.k.a. the astronauts' living quarters. NASA expects to begin launching them toward the Moon (it won't happen all at once) in 2022, just a few years down the road.



Once the entire station is ready, which will be around 2025 assuming everything goes well, the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will have a crew of four astronauts working 30 day missions before swapping out with new astronauts and returning to Earth. From up here, trips to the Moon will be simpler and various aspects of the Moon, like whether its water sources could be useful, can be studied in close detail.

And the station will also be useful for much more than just sending astronauts back to the Moon. While it will of course be used for lunar missions, which will be much easier with a permanent presence in the Moon's orbit, it will be an important stopping point for missions to Mars and beyond.

Ideally, spacecraft bound for Mars (depending on who gets to Mars first, this rocket could be a NASA Orion spacecraft, a SpaceX Dragon capsule, or whatever Boeing is working on) could use the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway as a staging ground for further travel, and some elements could even be assembled at the lunar station before the crew pushes onward to the Red Planet or other destinations.

This is precisely where the "Gateway" portion of the space station's name comes from. Gerstenmaier said the following last month about the station in a press release from NASA:

Opening quote
"The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will give us a strategic presence in cislunar space. 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."
Closing quote


If the International Space Station in Earth's orbit does finally come down soon, or worse, if it's converted into a privately owned hotel for rich tourists, then NASA is going to need a new station to carry out research. The lunar gateway could be what keeps NASA's space research afloat.
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