from the future-vision dept.
It looks like NASA's stepping-stone to Mars will be a miniature space station in lunar orbit rather than a chunk of captured asteroid.
The agency plans to build an astronaut-tended "deep space gateway" in orbit around the moon during the first few missions of the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion crew capsule, which are scheduled to fly together for the first time in late 2018, NASA officials said.
"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," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C, said in a statement. [Red Planet or Bust: 5 Crewed Mars Mission Ideas]
"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," Gerstenmaier added.
One of those "other destinations" is Mars. NASA is working to get astronauts to the vicinity of the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s, as directed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. For the last few years, the agency's envisioned "Journey to Mars" campaign has included the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), an effort to pluck a boulder from a near-Earth asteroid and drag the rock to lunar orbit, where it could be visited by astronauts aboard Orion.
But ARM's future looks bleak; President Donald Trump provided no money for the mission in his proposed 2018 federal budget, which the White House released earlier this month.
Let's just throw this old thing at the Moon and call it a day:
A cargo container that was built to fly on NASA's space shuttles is being repurposed as a prototype for a deep space habitat.
Lockheed Martin announced it will refurbish the Donatello multi-purpose logistics module (MLPM), transforming from it from its original, unrealized role as a supply conveyor for the International Space Station to a test and training model of a living area for astronauts working beyond Earth orbit. The work is being done under a public-private partnership between the aerospace corporation and NASA.
"We are excited to work with NASA to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware," said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin's program manager for the deep space habitat contract, in a statement.
Donatello was one of three MPLMs that was designed to fly in the space shuttle payload bay to transfer cargo to the station. Built by the Italian Space Agency under a contract with NASA, two modules, Leonardo and Raffaello, flew on 12 shuttle missions between 2001 and 2011.
Also at Popular Mechanics.
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At this year's International Astronautical Congress, NASA and Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, signed a joint statement expressing their intent to work collaboratively toward the development of a space station further out from Earth, orbiting the Moon, as a staging point for both lunar surface exploration and deeper space science.
This is part of NASA's expressed desire to explore and develop its so-called "deep space gateway" concept, which it intends to be a strategic base from which to expand the range and capabilities of human space exploration. NASA wants to get humans out into space beyond the Moon, in other words, and the gateway concept would establish an orbital space station in the vicinity of the Moon to help make this a more practical possibility.
Let's hope that the station, if built, becomes a refueling station that can store and distribute fuel produced on the Moon.