NASA, the European Space Agency to collaborate on the Artemis Gateway lunar outpost


As NASA seeks to bring humans back to the lunar surface through its Artemis program, the space agency is adding international partnerships to facilitate sustainable exploration of the moon, while demonstrating that a human mission to Mars is possible in the future.

A collaboration agreement between NASA and the European Space Agency was finalized on Tuesday, and the two agencies will work together on the Artemis Gateway lunar outpost. This is also NASA’s first formal agreement to launch international crew members to the moon during Artemis missions, according to the agency.

The Artemis Gateway will serve as a transit station serving astronauts traveling from Earth before they reach the surface of the moon.

“This partnership leverages the exceptional cooperation established by the International Space Station as we push forward to the Moon,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

“Gateway will continue to expand NASA’s cooperation with international partners such as ESA, ensuring that the Artemis program leads to safe and sustainable exploration of the moon after the initial human lunar landing and beyond.”

How the Artemis program works

The Artemis program will rely on multiple assets including the Orion probe, the Gateway and the Space Launch System rocket, known as the SLS. One of the key features of the program is sustainable space exploration with reusable spaceships and architecture, which could later bring humans to Mars.

The SLS rocket will send Orion, astronauts and large cargoes to the moon all at once, NASA said. And in the future, it could support robotic missions to Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The Orion spacecraft can carry four crew members and support deep space missions, unlike previous aircraft designed for short flights.

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Orion will dock at the Gateway, a lunar outpost that will go into orbit around the moon. About 250,000 miles from Earth, the Gateway will allow easier access to the entire surface of the moon and potentially exploration of deep space.

The current goal is to land the first woman and next man near the lunar south pole by 2024, according to NASA. And it is a goal that requires international partners. The agency expects more will be added in the future.

Eight countries signed as founding member countries of NASA’s Artemis Agreements during the 71st International Astronautical Congress held in early October.

This illustration shows the lunar outpost Gateway.

These nations include Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

NASA released the Artemis Accords in May to establish a framework of principles to safely and responsibly plan humanity’s return to the moon.

Assembly of the gateway

Under the agreement made this week between NASA and ESA, the European Space Agency will provide modules for housing, fueling and enhanced lunar communications on the Gateway. The two agencies will also be responsible for these modules.

The International Habitation module will include the Gateway’s environmental control and life support system, additional living and working space for the crew and space for scientific experiments both inside and outside the module.

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“The Gateway is designed to be complemented by additional capabilities provided by our international partners to support sustainable exploration,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in a statement. the headquarters of NASA.

“Gateway will give us access to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and we are delighted that partners like ESA will join us in these revolutionary efforts.”

Like the International Space Station, Gateway will be assembled in orbit. However, it will orbit the moon tens of thousands of miles from the lunar surface and be about one sixth of the space station the size of a football field.

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In addition to international partners, NASA is also working with business partners on Gateway and other aspects of the Artemis program.

The Gateway will also act as a hub for science experiments, just like the space station has done for 20 years. The first two investigations to fly to the Gateway have already been selected. Both are essentially two miniature weather stations, one from NASA, called HERMES, and one from ESA, known as ERSA, which will monitor space radiation to protect astronauts and help better understand the sun. NASA’s station name, HERMES, stands for Heliophysics Environmental and Radiation Measurement Experiment Suite and ESA’s ERSA is European Radiation Sensors Array.

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“Science will play a critical role in the Artemis program,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “Between NASA’s HERMES and ESA’s ERSA, these and future payloads on the Gateway will help us learn more about space weather and astronaut protection even as our work to land commercial payloads on the Moon helps advance lunar science and human exploration on the surface of the Moon. “

The Gateway will also act as a test bed for the technologies needed when planning a human mission to Mars.

“The Gateway will enable sustained Artemis operations, also serving as a catalyst for research and demonstration of new technologies, leveraging the unique environment in the lunar orbit,” said Dan Hartman, Gateway Program Manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a statement.

“ESA’s impactful contribution will allow for a longer crew stay around the Moon and provide unique capabilities needed to support its operations.”


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