Mankind is about to return to the Moon. Image Credit: NASA
NASA has revealed that its ambitious Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will launch as early as 2022.
Designed as a bridge between the Moon and deep space, the new space station will have a crew of up to four astronauts at a time and will, in the future, act as a stepping stone to Mars.
It will also make it easier for astronauts to pay a visit to the surface of the Moon.
"We want to understand orbital mechanics around the Moon a little better, far from the Earth's deep gravity well," said NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier.
"Doing things in this region, where gravity isn't such a big driver... is a different way of operating."
Lockheed Martin's new manned capsule Orion will be used to shuttle astronauts to the station.
"Development of the gateway has great momentum, and we are providing our expertise as NASA looks to industry to bring know-how to this important effort," the aerospace firm stated.
Budget-wise, the new station is also well funded and offers much in the way of flexibility.
"It's got fiscal realism, and it's also adaptable," said Gernstenmaier. "It can adapt to commercial partners. It's not a rigid program of one mission following another."
"As long as we view the moon as a stepping stone and not an end goal, I think we're OK."
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