Yesterday, NASA presented human-powered space exploration plans for the next decade. The most ambitious project is certainly the construction of an orbital station to be placed around the Moon, designed to send astronauts to and from the satellite.
The name has also been decided, the orbital station will be called Gateway and should start operating from 2024, while the first landings on the Moon will have to wait two more years, from 2026 the first trips will start according to current estimates.
Not just NASA is returning to the Moon after many years, but starting a more ambitious program that uses the Gateway station as an outpost for future trips to the solar system, for example for the exploration of Mars or for scientific research in even more remote places.
Here is how the Gateway Moon Base stationspace could appear, according to a representation of NASA.
We are talking about a modular Moon Base, which in the first phase will consist of one or more housing modules, a section dedicated to propulsion, and obviously a balancing chamber for docking incoming ships. An ambitious project that involves the construction of the first propulsion module in the coming years, with the aim of bringing it into orbit by 2022 on board a commercial rocket. The housing module will come later and will be linked to the creation of the new rocket called Space Launch System (SLS).
The SLS debut mission will take place with a test launch near the Moon, followed by a manned flight mission around the satellite. The next step will be to send a robotic vehicle on a mission to Europe, one of the moons of Jupiter, finally, it is expected to send the housing module on a version of the SLS rocket. The timing is rather optimistic and succeeding in the enterprise by 2024 appears at present a gamble.
Once the first phase is complete, the future will all to be written and we do not know what the precise plans of NASA are for manned lunar travel. There is now an increased chance of lunar colonies as researchers have confirmed the ice water at the surface of moon.
Given the delays in the construction of the SLS rocket, 2026 doesn’t seem all too close, but we will follow the developments of this project with great curiosity.