NASA have announced a new partnership with the European Space Agency [ESA] to develop Lunar Gateway – an ambitious new space station that will support manned landings on the Moon, as well as missions to Mars and beyond.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today unveiled a memorandum of understanding between NASA and the ESA outlining their joint commitment to building the Gateway together.
“As our outpost in lunar orbit,” today's NASA announcement says, “the Gateway is critical for sustainable exploration of the Moon as well as testing systems and operations for future missions to Mars.
Gateway, on an elliptical orbit that takes it between 2,000 and 43,000 miles above the Moon, will be the final step for the four crew members of Artemis III mission before the first American woman and next American man set foot on the lunar surface in 2024.
The first module of the Lunar Gateway space station is set to be launched in 2024, and the orbital platform will serve as the staging point for both robotic and crewed exploration of the lunar south pole, and is intended to ultimately act as home base for NASA's Deep Space Transport vessel that will send the first explorers to Mars.
After the Space Launch System rocket launches from Earth, says NASA, it will deploy the Orion spacecraft, and the European service module, attached to Orion, will help provide the propulsion necessary to put the spacecraft on a path to the Moon.
The crew will travel for several days to lunar orbit. From there, two crew members will travel to the lunar surface aboard a new human landing system while two astronauts will remain in orbit.
Following a historic week on the lunar surface, those two astronauts will return to orbit and transfer back to the Orion spacecraft with their crewmates.
That group of four astronauts will all return safely home aboard Orion, splashing down in the Pacific ocean. The first elements of Gateway, produced by commercial partners, will be in orbit around the Moon and available to support this mission if necessary.
This new agreement with ESA includes opportunities for European astronauts to fly with NASA astronauts on future Artemis missions to the Gateway, and beyond.
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