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article imageTrump calls for $2.7 billion moon-orbiting space station

By Karen Graham     Feb 22, 2018 in Science
As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s, and if all goes as planned, it would be ready for human habitation by 2023.
Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said that the installation will “help us further explore the moon and its resources and translate that experience toward human missions to Mars,” in his State of NASA address earlier this month.
This latest NASA project is part of President Trump's proposed 2019 budget request. The administration is asking for $19.9 billion to fund NASA, with $10.5 billion going toward human exploration. However, the generosity stops there. Funding for climate change missions, as well as funding for the agency’s $99.3 million education office, have been cut.
Exploration Gateway Platform Component make up.
Exploration Gateway Platform Component make up.
According to NASA, in line with the administration's move to transition away from the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025, the plan relies not only on NASA’s own activities but commercial and international partnerships. The $10.5 billion budget covers two new commercial initiatives.
One, called The Commercial LEO Development budget line item would provide $150 million in FY2019 and a total of $900 million over 5 years “for NASA to assist industry in the near term to develop a commercial low Earth orbit presence, with and without crews.”
The second initiative is called the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program in the Science Mission Directorate’s planetary science division budget. This item is funded at $218 million for FY2019 and each of the next four years.
It will “support innovative approaches to achieve human and science exploration goals by funding contracts for commercial transportation services and the development of small rovers and instrument [sic] to meet lunar science and exploration goals.”
Representation of a Russian Moon space ship at the margin in the Moon s orbit
Representation of a Russian Moon space ship at the margin in the Moon's orbit
Plans are not set in stone
No, nothing is set in stone until Congress approves the budget request and the full cost of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is already estimated to cost $2.7 billion through to the fiscal year 2023. And of course, as it was with the ISS, the Lunar Gateway station will be assembled over time, with the power and propulsion units targeted for launch in 2022.
As part of the space agency’s public-private partnership work under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships or NextSTEP, five companies are working on completing four-month studies for a power and propulsion element that could be used as part of the deep space gateway concept.
Combined funding awarded for the selected studies is approximately $2.4 million. The five companies include:
Boeing of Pasadena, Texas
Lockheed Martin of Denver, Colorado
Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado
Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California
The Lunar Gateway station would also provide space-to-Earth, space-to-lunar and spacecraft-to-spacecraft communications, as well as support communication for spacewalks. NASA also plans to use lasers to transfer large data sets because this is much faster than conventional means of transfer.
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft are the backbone of the agency’s future in deep space, and we will look closer into the details of the different parts of the mission as more information becomes available. But first, Congress has to pass that budget.
More about NASA, Lunar Orbital PlatformGateway, human exploration, 2019 budget, Science
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