NASA has announced two sets of instruments that will be carried aboard its planned Lunar Gateway space station.
NASA’s Gateway project aims to have astronauts orbiting the moon by 2025, with the construction of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway acting as a base of operations for lunar missions and eventually, missions to other parts of the solar system like Mars. The Gateway is being constructed by private companies as well as by NASA, in a series of commercial partnerships.
“Building the Gateway with our commercial and international partners is a critical component of sustainable lunar exploration and the Artemis program,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “Using the Gateway as a platform for robotic and human exploration around the Moon will help inform what we do on the lunar surface as well as prepare us for our next giant leap — human exploration of Mars.”
Artist’s visualization of the Gateway spacecraft with scientific instruments aboard. NASA
Aboard the Gateway craft will be a number of scientific instruments, including a radiation instrument package provided by the European Space Agency, which will research how radiation exposure could affect astronauts and electronic equipment in the orbit around the moon. It will also include a suite of space weather instruments, which will observe how solar winds affect astronauts on the moon and potential missions to Mars.
“Our sun and the environment around it is very dynamic. This instrument suite will help us observe the particles and energy that our star emits — and mitigate the risks to astronauts at the Moon and eventually, Mars,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, said in the statement. “Not only will we learn more about our space environment, but we’ll also learn how to improve forecasting space weather wherever the Artemis Generation journeys away from Earth.”
NASA aims to begin launching elements of the Lunar Gateway beginning in 2022, with the final module proposed to be delivered in 2028.
“This is an incredible moment in human spaceflight as NASA is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning to the lunar surface,” said Bridenstine. “America is leading a return to the Moon, and this time, we’re taking all of humanity with us to explore long-term and get ready for Mars.”