A NASA led-program to construct the first lunar space station will be getting key help from Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency as both agencies have eyes on sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
Called the “Deep Space Gateway,” the project would allow for mid-range exploration of our solar system as missions geared up for deep space travel to Mars and possible beyond. The plan calls for a crewed spaceport in lunar orbit that would maintain the deep space link, according to NASA.
“While the DSG is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see the growing interrelation interest in moving into cislunar space as the next step for advancing human space exploration,” said acting NASA Director Robert Lightfoot. “Statements such as the one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable.”
Coinciding with the collaborative announcement, NASA selected six firms to develop full-sized ground-based engineering prototypes of possible concepts needed for future Mars exploration with designs expected to be completed in 2018 through the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnership program.
Roscosmos General Director Igor Komarov said the Russia-U.S. agreement would “avoid future problems” over future cooperation.
“Part of the standards should be unified – for a possibility for various countries to work on their craft and dock to the international lunar station,” Komarov said. lunar
Moscow’s proton-m and Angara rockets will be used to help create the infrastructure of the lunar station with a goal set for development in the mid-2020s, according to a Roscosmos statement.
“Taking into account the country’s extensive experience in developing docking units, the station’s future elements will be created using Russian designs,” Komarov said.
The project would be similar to the International Space Station, currently the largest international space collaboration of $100 billion. The ISS has been orbiting Earth since 1998 at about 17,000 miles per hour about 250 miles above the planet. NASA announced in 2016 the ISS would be decommissioned by 2028, but could replace the vital research station with expandable habitats and ultimately scrap the ISS for pars.
Future Nigerian spacecrafts could be built with reused ISS parts.
Building the deep space gateway will allow engineers to develop new skills and test new technologies that have evolved since the assembly of the ISS.
“I envision different partners, both international and commercial, contributing to the gateway and using it in a variety of ways with a system that can move to different orbits to enable a variety of missions,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The gateway could move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the moon, or to a high lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system.”
NASA estimates the second phase of the gateway project “at the end of the 2020s” could see a one year crewed missions aboard the station “in the lunar vicinity to validate the readiness of the system to travel beyond the Earth-moon system to Mars and other destinations, and build confidence that long-duration, distant human missions can be safely conducted with independence from Earth.
Through the efforts to build this deep space infrastructure, this phase will enable explorers to identify and pioneer innovative solutions to technical and human challenges discovered or engineered in deep space.