It’s been 50 years since man first walked on the moon. In 2019, NASA will make its first big push to go back and create a lunar space station. Not only will the station help humans return to the moon, but it will also act as a kind of rest stop for Mars missions.
William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations for NASA, spoke about the plans for the first lunar outpost at the Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Thursday Bloomberg reported. Next year, the agency will start spending for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway beginning with power and propulsion elements. NASA is planning for a 2022 launch and expects the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway to orbit the moon in 2025.
The Gateway will have multiple purposes when it’s fully operational. It will help in putting another human on the moon surface and will help determine if water near the surface can be used for propellant. Missions to Mars could possibly use the station as a pit stop on the way to or from the red planet. Gerstenmaier also said the platform will also allow for understanding orbital mechanics being that it’s in an environment with no gravity.
Lockheed Martin’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle will be the primary spacecraft for flights to the moon. The first uncrewed flight for the Orion will happen next year.
The launch of the system to the moon will happen in 2020. A crew will make their way to the platform in 2023. A four-person team will handle duties on the platform in 30 to 60-day missions.
Gerstenmaier said the budget for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is already part of the agency’s budget and doesn’t require a huge new influx of funding. Whether that budget changes under the newly confirmed NASA administrator Senator Jim Bridenstine Is yet to be seen.