CAPE CANAVERAL — The key to getting humans back to the moon will be the equivalent of a motor home in space, said one of the people responsible for building it.
Gateway, NASA's proposed lunar orbiter, is essential to returning humans to the moon by 2024, said Mark Weise, one of the Gateway program's managers during a panel discussion at Space Congress Wednesday.
Astronauts going to the moon would first go to Gateway. From there, a lunar lander would bring them down to the moon's surface. On the return trip, the lander would bring them back to Gateway, where the astronauts would then transfer to their capsule for the ride back to Earth.
Weise compares Gateway to the Base Camp at the foot of Mount Everest, where climbers gather all the equipment they'll need to try to reach the peak.
While astronauts will be able to spend some time on Gateway, it won't be the lunar equivalent of the International Space Station, which Weise described as "house in space."
"This is an RV we will have in lunar orbit," he said.
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NASA has dubbed the return-to-the-moon program Project Artemis, after the Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon, who was the twin sister of Apollo.
Panelists said NASA engineers and scientists are increasingly optimistic — and excited — about the prospects of returning humans to the moon within five years and then eventually on to Mars.
Last month, the Trump administration asked Congress for an additional $1.6 billion in the coming fiscal year to jump start the Artemis program.
"We want to create a foothold on the new frontier," said Bill Hill, NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development.
They acknowledged that doing so won't be easy, though they are confident NASA and its commercial partners can overcome any technological hurdles they might face.
"It's hard," said Steve Clarke, NASA's deputy associate administrator for science exploration. "We've done it before, but that doesn't make it technologically less difficult."
The most difficult part of the mission won't technological, Weise said.
"The hardest part will be explaining what we are doing so the public supports us."
Quelle: Florida Today