NASA aims to take the first woman and next man to the moon by 2024 under the Artemis program. The agency plans to build a Lunar Gateway station that will orbit the moon like the International Space Station orbits Earth. It will provide support for a ‘sustainable, long-term return of astronauts to the lunar surface’ as part of NASA’s Artemis program. “About one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, the Gateway will function as a way station, located tens of thousands of miles at its farthest distance from the lunar surface, in a near-rectilinear halo orbit,” the agency said in a press release. NASA states the total cost for the Lunar Gateway mission is approximately $331.8 million. While the project is led by NASA, Lunar Gateway will be developed and utilized in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, European Space Agency, and many commercial partners who want to expand human presence to the moon and set the foundation for crewed voyages to Mars. “It will serve as a rendezvous point for Artemis astronauts traveling to lunar orbit aboard Orion [spacecraft] prior to transit to low-lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon. From this vantage, NASA and its international and commercial partners will conduct unprecedented deep space science and technology investigations,” agency representatives wrote.
Today, February 9, NASA announced it selected SpaceX as launch provider to launch the first two portions of the Lunar Gateway station. The initial elements that will comprise the Lunar Gateway are: the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), plus the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). PPE and HALO will launch atop SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world. Falcon Heavy features 27 powerful Merlin 1D engines that generate over 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The rocket will launch from Launch Complex-39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. to propel HALO and PPE towards the moon. The mission is currently scheduled for May 2024.
The Lunar Gateway PPE is a 60-killowatt electric propulsion spacecraft that is powered by the sun. It will be used to move the Gateway to different orbits around the moon. The HALO is a module that features a pressurized environment where the astronauts can live inside. “It will provide command and control and serve as the docking hub for the outpost,” as well as “support science investigations, distribute power, provide communications for visiting vehicles and lunar surface expeditions, and supplement the life support systems aboard Orion, NASA’s spacecraft that will deliver Artemis astronauts to the Gateway,” the agency shared. Other modules will also be able to connect to HALO to expand the Lunar Gateway station in the future, as pictured below.
All Images Source: NASA