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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: 3, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Monday April 17 2017, @06:15PM (4 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 17 2017, @06:15PM (#495399) Journal

    No one has mentioned a fact that seems rather obvious to me. The moon is further up the earth's gravity well than anything else that we have orbiting the earth. It isn't at the very top of the earth's gravity well, of course, or it would escape in the near future. But, it is within spitting distance of the top of the well. Vehicles and payloads assembled in moon orbit will require a lot less energy to launch, than if they were launched from a closer earth orbit.

    But, I'm amused at the article's to lunar orbit as a "deep space gateway". I realize that space flight is still in it's infancy, but could we reserve references to "deep space" for at least as far out as the gas giants? It's like a child walking to the house next door, and feeling like he's explored the New World. "Deep Space" should at least be comparable to the next block down the street.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17 2017, @06:41PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17 2017, @06:41PM (#495417)

    Well, eventually we're going to start using atomic engines and going to other systems, right?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17 2017, @07:03PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17 2017, @07:03PM (#495428)

    Look at the rubber sheet model here [] -- any "lunar orbit" is down in the lunar gravity well. The lagrange points are the only places that are actually near the top -- that's where you want to assemble your interplanetary spacecraft.

    • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Monday April 17 2017, @11:17PM

      by mhajicek (51) on Monday April 17 2017, @11:17PM (#495592)

      Actually I'd rather assemble and fuel on the surface of the Moon and launch from a many mile long EM gun (open ended hyperloop) without burning any fuel.

      The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by anotherblackhat on Monday April 17 2017, @08:26PM

    by anotherblackhat (4722) on Monday April 17 2017, @08:26PM (#495470)

    ... could we reserve references to "deep space" for at least as far out as the gas giants?

    Robert Heinlein famously said that once you are in low Earth orbit you are 'halfway to anywhere.' 1
    Lunar orbit isn't like walking next door, it's like climbing out of a deep well and then walking next door.
    A walk to the store is farther than next door, but climbing out of the well was the hard part.

    1. Not exact, but pretty close when measured in amount of delta-V needed to get there.