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posted by CoolHand on Monday April 17 2017, @04:17PM   Printer-friendly
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.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by VLM on Monday April 17 2017, @05:26PM (1 child)

    by VLM (445) on Monday April 17 2017, @05:26PM (#495361)

    Bad idea way better to build a large ground base on the moon and get all the bugs ironed out when an emergency flight home is like 2 days away rather than on Mars where the emergency flight home is much longer trip. Also you can boost a semi-continuous stream of spare parts to the moon rather than mars. Finally the gravity is weak enough on the moon to build a lunar elevator with COTS material so I'd build that first.

    And this is how they get conflicting arguments.

    Seriously though build a base on the edge of the moon (I know its a Fing sphere, I mean a location tangential to earths Line of Sight at our visual edge) with the point being that 10 miles on a moon buggy to the far side and its the quietest radio telescope location ever, and 10 miles to the earth side and you'd always have LOS laser or microwave access to home.

    If you're really bored talk to a lunar astronomer about wobble of the moon. You can do some interesting studies on the "edge" of the moon because of the wobble. but because of the wobble the "edge" is really a range quite a few miles wide (depending on lunar latitude and lots of handwaving)

    Also for a lot of reasons the "edge" of the moon is where the lunar space elevator touches down. Then you can export fuel for extremely fast landings of humans (it can take a long time to go up or down a space elevator but something like hydrazine or high conc hydrogen peroxide doesn't care too much).

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18 2017, @06:17PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18 2017, @06:17PM (#495945)

    A space elevator won't work in the traditional sense, because the moon is tidally locked to the earth. A space elevator normally elevates to the point where geosynchronous orbital velocity is obtained. Due to the tidal locking, there is no such point on the moon.