The NASA diagram outlines the Artemis mission set for establishing a permanent ‘Lunar Gateway’ on the moon. (Image credit: NASA via Ars Technica)
A leaked internal infographic from NASA outlines their ambitious journey to return astronauts to the moon in 2024, a series of landings shortly after, and an end-goal of establishing a permanent base on its surface by 2028. Known as project Artemis (twin sister of Apollo), the plan would use the moon station as a starting point for deep space exploration operations in the solar system, with Mars a prime target.
NASA explains- “Working with U.S. companies and international partners, NASA will push the boundaries of human exploration forward to the Moon for this program. As a result of Artemis, NASA will be able to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 to uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements, and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy. With our goal of sending humans to Mars, Artemis is the first step to begin this next era of exploration.”
Blue Origin’s Blue Moon Lander, backed by Jeff Bezos, is just one contender looking to help NASA with their mission. (Image credit: Blue Origin)
According to the infographic, each stage is broken down by year, and entails 37 launches from both private institutions and NASA, as well as a series robotic and human expeditions, ending with what NASA terms a “Lunar Surface Asset Deployment.” While the graphic doesn’t specifically explain what the asset deployment is, it looks to be a habitat module that can piece together with others for long-term deployments.
Given that NASA’s upcoming SLS (Space Launch System) is purported to carry 26 metric tons (57,000 pounds), and it would have no problem transporting habitat modules, surface vehicles, or supplies at regular intervals. Future upgrades of the SLS will see the carry weight pushed to 45 metric tons, which would allow astronauts to take a significant amount of supplies and gear for deep space exploration inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
Of course, private companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX will be a contributing factor during the next decade to achieve NASA’s vision of a Lunar Gateway, but there are some drawbacks to that vision, with funding being the biggest problem. All those launches, vehicles, and habitats will cost an enormous amount of money, around $6 to $8-billion annually, and that’s on top of NASA’s existing budget of $20-billion. The question is no longer one of can NASA accomplish their goals, but rather a fiscal one, and only the US government can answer it.
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