- In order to meet the 2024 deadline, NASA has pulled its ambitious Lunar Gateway from the Artemis Mission.
- A NASA official announced the decision in a March 13 NASA Advisory Council Science Committee meeting.
- The agency is still planning to build the gateway, but it will be held to a different schedule.
NASA announced this week that it will not rely on its ambitious Lunar Gateway, a space station designed to serve as a science outpost and launch pad to the lunar surface, to help astronauts to the moon after all.
The associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Douglas Loverro, told the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee on March 13 that the agency would be easing the lunar outpost's timeline, NASASpaceFlight.com reports. “By taking Gateway out of the critical path for the lunar landing in 2024, I believe what we have done is create a far better Gateway program,” he said.
The move is likely intended to alleviate concerns about Artemis' already pinched mission timeline and budget. Congress expressed concerns last year during a U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s commerce, justice, and science subcommittee meeting. “It’s hard to justify any extra spending on this effort in the current fiscal year when we don’t know the costs down the road,” committee chairman Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), said in his opening statement.
NASA is still going to build the Lunar Gateway, but it's just not likely to be a critical part of the Artemis Mission. Loverro stressed that international partners like ESA, Roscosmos, JAXA, and the Canadian Space Agency—whose contributions weren't going to be added until after NASA's 2024 lunar deadline—will not be impacted by the shift. (They were given an official notice about the decision on March 16.)
“We can now tell them 100% positively it will be there because we’ve changed that program to a much more, what I would call, solid, accomplishable schedule,” Loverro said during the meeting. “If it gets behind schedule, no problem – you can still maintain it being there."
The agency recently announced the selection of two critical science payloads for the station, a NASA-built space weather instrument which will track charged particles burped out by the sun and an ESA-made instrument that will measure radiation levels in space.
Additional payloads will be selected in the coming years.
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