NASA Video Sheds Light on Its Plans to Establish a Lunar Outpost
NASA wants to make the Clavius Base seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey real (or at least something close to it). The space agency recently published a marketing video on November 16 to hype up its ambitious plan to construct both orbiting and stationary lunar outposts.
The National Space Exploration Campaign Report proposes getting humans back on the moon “no later than 2029”, in compliance with the White House’s Space Policy Directive 1. The document states that an orbital lunar depot — called Gateway — along with advanced landers will be fully operational by 2028. NASA believes this infrastructure is a necessary stepping stone toward deeper space exploration.
“On the Gateway, America and [its] partners will prepare to transit deep space, validating new technologies and systems as we build the infrastructure to support missions to the surface of the Moon and prepare for the epochal journey to Mars,” states the report.
How the Gateway Will Be Built
The Gateway will essentially be a smaller version of the International Space Station that will circl the moon. Initially, it’ll be capable of housing four crew members for up to 30 days.
The orbiter will consist of four parts: a power and propulsion component, a main cabin, a robotic arm, and an airlock. The power unit will consist of two solar-panel arms attached to an engine nozzle, which is slated to be in orbit by 2022.
Just like the ISS, the Gateway will be assembled piece by piece with the final airlock component being attached as early as 2024. The main role of for this station will be to support surface missions by being the eyes in the lunar skies.
How the Surface Base Will Look Like
NASA hopes to dot the moon’s surface with what it calls “advanced exploration landers” and rovers by 2026. The combination of the two will let the agency reveal all of the moon’s secrets — like how or whether it could be made hospitable enough for sustaining life — allow astronauts to seamlessly move across the lunar surface, and serve as a test run for how to go about exploring other parts of the solar system.
A lot of work remains to be done before it can begin constructing a lunar base in earnest. NASA is still looking into what it would take to sustain long-term surface operations. The document states the agency is still researching how to effectively provide power to lunar settlements and studying what the next-generation of spacesuits should look like.
All of these breakthroughs have to happen first before NASA can move forward with Gateway, which would act like a pair of arms passing supplies from Earth to the Moon. But if all goes according to plan, it will likely be the first pitstop astronauts make before being able to cruise even farther into space.