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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 Grishnakh on Monday April 17 2017, @08:56PM (1 child)

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday April 17 2017, @08:56PM (#495489)

    Just pick something you want NASA to do and stick with it, please.

    I'm sorry, we simply cannot do that. It's impossible. We get a new political direction every 8 years at the most, possibly in 4 years, maybe 2 (since Congress shifts around every 2 years), so there's simply no way to guarantee funding for NASA for anything longer-term than that.

    The smart thing for NASA to do is to simply waste money on the big projects that they're directed to do (e.g. send humans to Mars) without actually achieving them, and try to at least get some technology developed from these failed programs that can be reused for much shorter-term missions like sending robotic probes to the moons of Saturn. It would be a lot more honest, though, if we'd simply give up on any big missions, admit to the world that we're just too dysfunctional to ever pull off anything like the Moon landing again.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by mhajicek on Monday April 17 2017, @10:57PM

    by mhajicek (51) on Monday April 17 2017, @10:57PM (#495582)

    Trying to turn the cynicism down a bit (not that it isn't wholly appropriate) if I were in those shoes I'd try for modular, general purpose technologies. This year you want a rocked to go here with that much payload, next year it's there with that much payload. They need a modular launch system that can have multiple tubes with various numbers of engines and amounts of fuel so that the vehicle can be rapidly assembled to whatever mission parameters are given.

    The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek