No, those aren’t the building blocks of a Mass Relay from the popular video game series Mass Effect. They’re not real yet, but they could be: They’re concept drawings of a potential lunar outpost released by NASA last year.
This near-moon craft, called the Deep Space Gateway, would allow astronauts to test systems and methods needed for deep space travel all while they’re still relatively close to Earth. This is in its early stages, but the $4.4 trillion budget proposal released by the White House on Monday suggests the Trump administration is keen on making this a reality — just without spending much money.
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The 2019 budget proposal wants to allot NASA $19.6 billion, which is just 0.45 percent of the money going to all government agencies. Yet the language in the budget still seems enthused about expanding near-moon space exploration.
“The Budget provides $10 billion to support human space exploration and to pursue a campaign that would establish U.S. preeminence to, around, and on the Moon,” states the document.
The Deep Space Gateway lunar outpost would allow astronauts to test systems required for deep space travel, all while they're close to Earth.
If all goes according to the budget’s plan, NASA should by 2022 be able to launch a “power and propulsion space tug,” a pivotal piece of this lunar outpost. Following that, there should also be a 2023 mission where a team of astronauts are launched around the moon aboard the Orion capsule.
While it’s unclear how exactly NASA will go about this with relatively little funding is unclear. But acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement Tuesday that if the agency were to complete these milestones, it would usher in a new era of American space travel.
“This will give us a strategic presence in the lunar vicinity that will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us further explore the Moon and its resources and translate that experience toward human missions to Mars,” said Lightfoot.
The budget, however, doesn’t mention the Deep Space Gateway at all. An NBCNews report regarding the outposts estimated that building the gateway would “almost certainly exceed that of the estimated $125 billion it took to build the International Space Station.”
NASA will need a lot of help from the private sector if they wanted to complete this lunar outpost. Until then it will remain a concept.
Photos via NASA
Photos via NASA
Written by Danny Paez
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