NASA and Partners to Build First Lunar Space Station Gateway

2nd Apr 2024
NASA and Partners to Build First Lunar Space Station Gateway

Artemis IV is gearing up to construct the first lunar space station, ‘Gateway.’ It will aim to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon as astronauts prepare to inhabit and operate from Gateway and pave the way for future scientific discoveries and missions to Mars.

The mission is set to follow Artemis III, which will see the first crewed landing near the Moon’s South Pole. The Artemis IV mission will also mark the debut of NASA’s more extensive and powerful version of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, along with a new mobile launcher. 

Gateway Assembly Before Crew Arrival

The construction of Gateway will take place on Earth, where engineers will piece together its foundational modules –  the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) crafted by Maxar and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) developed by Northrop Grumman. Scheduled for liftoff aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, these components will set out on a year-long voyage to lunar orbit, utilizing highly efficient solar-electric propulsion and gravitational assists to reach their destination. 

Upon arrival in lunar orbit, Gateway’s systems will prepare for the arrival of additional modules. Among these are the International Habitation modules (I-Hab), provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Space Agency, which will incorporate life support systems and expand the living and working space for Gateway’s astronauts. Ahead of the crew launch, NASA will send additional spacecraft, including the Starship Human Landing System and Dragon XL logistics module, with supplies and spacesuits.

Once it’s all setup, Gateway will feature living quarters for crew members, docking ports, and cutting-edge research equipment. The space station will also have an oval-shaped orbit spanning the Moon’s polar regions. This will facilitate the crew with scientific study by providing a unique view of the Sun, the Moon, and the deep space. 

Artemis IV
Artist’s concept of SpaceX Starship human landing system. Credit: NASA, SpaceX

Crew Departure and Lunar Surface Exploration

Set to lift off from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, four crew members are set to be part of this mission. Upon arrival, they will carefully dock the International I-Hab with the HALO, activate the station’s systems, and unload essential supplies. Two of the four crew members, clad in advanced spacesuits, will go down to the moon’s surface for six days and conduct a series of moonwalks while the remaining two will stay behind to continue setup.

With this mission, NASA will pioneer humanity’s first sustained presence in deep space and lay the groundwork for future missions to Mars. In addition, they will achieve the historic milestone of landing the first person of color, the first woman, and the first international partner astronaut on the surface of the Moon.

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