On Tuesday, NASA announced that it is in official partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop Gateway, the space station it intends to launch into orbit around the Moon.
The Gateway station, which is meant to allow long-term lunar exploration, serving as a midpoint between space and the lunar surface, will be an international adventure, according to a NASA press release. And after helping to establish a human presence on and around the Moon, the joint project could help both NASA and ESA eventually reach Mars.
When the space station will be ready
Construction of the Gateway space station could begin by 2022. NASA has already assigned tasks to contractors, including SpaceX and Maxar Technologies, but will now share the remaining burden with ESA. ESA has agreed to provide new modules for the Gateway and spacecraft that will travel to and from it, as well as improved monthly communications and a system to power the Gateway.
Following the launch of the rocket, the Earth Space Launch System will launch the Orion spacecraft, and the European service module, attached to Orion, will help provide the propulsion needed to put the spacecraft on a path to the moon.
The crew will travel in lunar orbit for a few days. From there, two crew members will travel on the lunar surface aboard a new human landing system, while two astronauts will remain in orbit. After a historic week on the lunar surface, the two astronauts will return to orbit and transfer back to the Orion spacecraft with their crewmates.
This group of four astronauts will return safely home aboard Orion, landing in the Pacific Ocean. The first elements of the Gateway, produced by trading partners, will be in orbit around the Moon and will be available to support this mission, if necessary.
“In short, we will move human spaceflight beyond Earth’s orbit to the moon for the first time since 1972,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a statement. Posting on the agency’s blog.
In her blog post, Bridenstine also suggested that more international agreements supporting the Artemis program will be announced soon. “This partnership capitalizes on the outstanding cooperation established by the International Space Station as we move toward the moon,” Bridenstine said in a press release. “Gateway will continue to expand NASA’s cooperation with international partners such as ESA, ensuring that the Artemis program will result in safe and sustainable exploration of the Moon after the initial human lunar landing and beyond.”