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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 kaszz on Monday April 17 2017, @09:05PM (2 children)

    by kaszz (4211) on Monday April 17 2017, @09:05PM (#495497) Journal

    The Senate Lunch System has competition from that annoying Space-X, got to find something else to suck money ;)

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  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday April 17 2017, @09:32PM (1 child)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 17 2017, @09:32PM (#495522) Journal

    Here is a facepalm worthy day dream.

    SpaceX eventually gets Falcon Heavy launched. Then gets the bugs worked out.

    Meanwhile SLS slogs along and eventually launches at great cost.

    Falcon Heavy gets contracts and delivers.

    Congress continues to fund SLS even though it has no customers lined up.

    Trump is a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man, and a stupid man's idea of a smart man.
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Monday April 17 2017, @09:54PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Monday April 17 2017, @09:54PM (#495537) Journal

      Falcon Heavy can't carry as much as SLS, but it is much cheaper in comparison to the extent that it won't matter. Especially if reuse is regularly achieved.

      However, the ITS would utterly destroy SLS: [] []

      If I'm reading it right, 2-3x and maybe 4x the payload of SLS. With reusability built in from the start. And it could get more payload to Mars than SLS could get to LEO.

      Now, if I had been saying this last year, it would have been less impressive. But now SpaceX has flown a reused rocket booster and is planning a Moon flyby (using Falcon Heavy AFAIK).

      If ITS flies before the SLS program has been wrapped up, there is going to be a showdown. Musk wants to fly ITS by 2022, and SLS is going to be funded through 2025, probably. The first date could slip, but still, things could get really interesting.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []