US to Lead Lunar Orbit Station Initiative

Observations on Chinese Business News Network

On March 31, the Chinese Business News Network reported that NASA and its partners are collaborating on the development of a new, long-term space station to be located near the Moon. This space station will serve as a “way station” for missions to the Moon and Mars.

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According to NASA, the space station, named “Lunar Gateway,” is scheduled to transport its first module into space as early as 2025, with full operations expected to commence in 2028 or later. Similar to the International Space Station, this project is a collaboration between space agencies from the United States, Europe, Japan, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, among others, with an estimated cost totaling several billion US dollars.

Unlike the International Space Station, which operates in low Earth orbit, the “Lunar Gateway” will be positioned in a Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit between Earth and the Moon, swinging back and forth between them, coming as close as 2000 miles to the lunar surface.

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Bill Nelson, the Administrator of NASA, announced the UAE’s participation in the program in January of this year, stating, “Through the Artemis program, we are ushering in a new era of exploration, and peaceful international cooperation in space exploration is making this era even stronger. The UAE’s provision of extravehicular activity equipment will enable astronauts to conduct groundbreaking scientific missions in deep space and prepare for human missions to Mars.”

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NASA has indicated that the “Lunar Gateway” will serve as a staging point for astronaut activities, future missions, and spacewalks. The first two modules of the space station are currently being constructed by Maxar and Northrop Grumman and will be launched into space using SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

During the “Artemis IV” mission, four astronauts will be sent to the lunar space station to activate its computer systems. Subsequently, two astronauts will depart the space station for a six-day mission on the lunar surface, while the other two astronauts will stay on the space station to carry out research and continue equipment assembly work.

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After the mission is completed, all astronauts will rendezvous at the “Lunar Gateway” before returning to Earth aboard the Orion spacecraft.

Global space agencies plan to decommission the International Space Station around 2030 after operating it for several decades. NASA has stated that the extreme temperatures, pressures, and other environmental factors in space make it unsustainable for the space station to operate indefinitely. NASA is currently planning to construct a retired thruster to safely deorbit the International Space Station. The thruster will allow the space station to maneuver before re-entering Earth, guiding it to a remote, uninhabited ocean area, minimizing any potential threat to humanity.

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