Unexpected technical complications will keep NASA’s Lunar Gateway from being fully operational by 2024 and delay the agency’s larger plans for a permanent moon base
- NASA’s ambitious plans for a lunar base will likely be delayed by at least a year
- The agency encountered technical complications with the space station, called the Lunar Gateway, intended to stage construction materials
- The new focus for 2024 will be on high powered rockets to complete a roundtrip mission to the moon
NASA‘s ambitious plans to build a base on the surface of the moon will likely be delayed.
According to NASA’s Dough Loverro, who oversees the agency’s human exploration programs, several aspects of the project’s technical design and multi-phase rollout need to be revised.
One of the first changes will affect NASA’s touted Lunar Gateway, a space station planned to orbit the moon and to be used as a staging point for the subsequent construction of a base on the moon’s surface.
NASA’s ambitious plans for a lunar base will be delayed by at least a year after unexpected technical complications with the Lunar Gateway, a space station planned to orbit the moon and used as a staging area for construction materials
NASA had targeted a completion window for the Lunar Gateway in 2024, and promised construction on the lunar base would begin no later than 2025, but according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Lunar Gateway is being reworked.
NASA says it will still have a space station in orbit around the moon in 2024, but it won’t initially be as capable as originally planned, likely delaying the completion date for the lunar base.
The Gateway was also to be a launching point for NASA’s later mission to Mars, planned for sometime in the 2030s, as well as a resource for commercial space travel companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.
The aggressive timeline for the lunar gateway was originally set by the White House, which insisted NASA speed up its initial timeline for the project, which originally had the Lunar Gateway completed in 2028 instead of 2024.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration was eager to have a milestone event ready to coincide with what could be the end of Donald Trump’s second term as president, should he win re-election in 2020.
The lunar gateway was also intended to be used as a hub for future space travel, including NASA’s planned mission to Mars in the 2030s, and as a resource made available to commercial space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin
With the new timeline, a ‘slimmed-down’ version of the Lunar Gateway is still on track to be in orbit around the moon by 2024, but it’s still unclear how limited it will be compared to the original vision.
‘We are looking at alternatives to make sure we can achieve sustainability as soon as possible,’ Loverro said.
Loverro suggested NASA will instead make its top priority the development of a new family of rockets capable of completing a roundtrip mission to the moon in 2024, with a target cost of $2billion per launch.
WHAT IS THE LUNAR GATEWAY?
Russia and the United States are cooperating on a NASA-led project to build the first lunar space station, codenamed the Lunar Gateway.
The agreement, signed in September 2017, is part of a long-term project to send humans to Mars.
The crew-tended spaceport will orbit the moon and serve as a ‘gateway to deep space and the lunar surface,’ NASA has said.
The first modules of the station could be completed as soon as 2024.
Russia and the United States are cooperating on a NASA-led project to build the first lunar space station, codenamed the Lunar Gateway
An international base for lunar exploration for humans and robots and a stopover for spacecraft is a leading contender to succeed the $100 billion International Space Station (ISS), the world’s largest space project to date.
Nasa asked European scientists and industry leaders to join the agency in September 2018.
Accepting the offer could cost the European Space Agency (ESA) – of which Britain is a key member – an estimated £1 billion ($1.3 billion).
A decision on whether to become involved will be taken at a meeting of European science ministers next year.
In the mean time, the ESA is drawing up plans for the form its section of the station could take.