NASA still serious about astronauts living it up on Moon space station in 2028
Assuming the orbital hotel is even built by then
The first group of astronauts to set foot into NASA's Moon-orbiting Gateway space station will be the Artemis IV crew in 2028, if everything goes as planned.
The Americans have made it no secret they want to colonize the Moon, and envision eventually building infrastructure to make it a base to explore further into the solar system. The US space agency is taking small steps – or perhaps giant leaps – towards realizing this goal by launching astronauts to visit the surface of the Moon and build a space station around the natural satellite.
That station would be the Gateway, which is an ambitious project. It'll be humanity's first extraterrestrial space station – the ISS, in low-Earth orbit, doesn't count. NASA is collaborating with other international space agencies and private space companies to construct the habitat, which will be made up of several different modules to support astronauts living and working above the Moon's surface.
If everything goes smoothly, the first crew to reside in the space dorm will be the Artemis IV crew in 2028, according to Stephanie Dudley, the mission integration and utilization manager for Gateway, as Space.com reported.
"It is not a stretch to say that Gateway is very much a part of the [International Space Station] legacy," she said during a presentation at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference this month. While Gateway is expected to be a fifth of the size of the ISS by volume, the lessons learned building the venerable space lab have been crucial to Gateway's design, she said.
Plans to design and construct the Gateway are underway. NASA awarded a $1 billion contract to Northrop Grumman to build the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module, which will serve as the living quarters for four astronauts. It will be put together on Earth and is expected to launch into space aboard a SpaceX Heavy Falcon rocket in November 2025.
There are other parts that need to be built, such as the Human Landing System (HLS) – a capsule that will ferry astronauts to the Moon's surface and dock with the Gateway in the future.
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NASA came under fire for choosing SpaceX as the sole provider of the HLS. Rival Blue Origin filed a lawsuit over the decision, and temporarily forced SpaceX to halt its work crafting the capsule. NASA later awarded a contract to build a second lunar lander to Blue Origin.
Dudley said the Artemis V crew – remember we're not even at Artemis II yet – will add a refueling module and a second habitat module to Gateway. That mission is scheduled to launch in September 2029.
Unlike the ISS, Gateway won't need to be permanently occupied by astronauts to keep things ticking over. It will be designed to operate autonomously for up to three years, while using its sensor package to scan the Moon and provide constant data flows back to Earth. ®