NASA’s Lunar ‘Gateway’ Space Station to Soon Begin Construction

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NASA’s goal of returning to the moon is about to get a major push in early 2019 as the agency to give its first contract for the lunar ‘Gateway’ program. This Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway by NASA will be a ‘staging area’ which is intended to study the moon and also the deep-space environment.

Finally, it functions as a way station for astronauts who travel to and from Mars. The program is not rigid, of one mission following another and can adapt to commercial partners.

For the platform, NASA will be first spending on power and propulsion elements followed by habitation components in the early next year. Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier said, they will probably be launched moonward, in that order, starting in 2022. The platform should be orbiting the moon in 2025. Gerstenmaier oversees human exploration and operations and further added, “It will carry a four-astronaut crew on 30-day missions.”

The lunar platform- Gateway would provide impetus to NASA’s goal of another human landing on the moon and helps in determining whether water near the surface could be used to manufacture propellant for deep-space missions. The Moon’s gravity may also help a spacecraft to reduce the extreme speeds used for 6-month voyages back-and-forth to Mars and facilitates re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. Orbital mechanics around the moon can be better understood.

In November 2017, NASA selected 5 companies to study a high-power solar-electric propulsion system that can be used in deep-space missions, including the lunar platform. Future missions may require a power system that has 3-times the capability of current designs. Trips to the ‘Gateway’ will be aboard a spacecraft, the Orion being assembled by Lockheed Martin Corp. And the service module being supplied by the European Space Agency (ESA). The Orion’s first flight is scheduled for next year that is without crew and will serve as the command deck.

William Gerstenmaier said, “As long as we view the moon as a stepping stone and not an end goal, I think we’re OK”, NASA is also assessing how to continue the US presence in low-Earth orbit. The Trump administration has proposed ending US funding of the International Space Station in 2024. “We think it’s a great place to do development”, “To do major development in the vicinity of the moon is really costly.”