NASA’s acting agency administrator, Robert Lightfoot, spoke to reporters in mid-February about plans to explore the moon. The goal is to have a steady stream of crewed flights heading back and forth from a lunar exploration platform to the surface of the moon. This platform would be placed in low Earth orbit to facilitate easier exploration and transmission of data.
The platform has been dubbed the Lunar Orbiting Platform and was once known as the Deep Space Gateway. The facility is meant to be run by humans, instead of through automation. It would be used primarily for occupancy and to conduct testing on any samples gathered from the lunar surface.
NASA’s lunar exploration plans are much wider than just the development and use of the Lunar Orbiting Platform. Their budget proposal also contained a request for the development and construction of a propulsion element, to be launched on a commercial vehicle at some point in 2022. The plan also asks the government to consider funding an additional set of agreements to help them create the best design for those habitats.
Lightfoot also told reporters that the agency is currently seeking better and more capable lenders to help fund their missions, beginning with small commercial agencies. He also indicated that there would be a request for proposal released soon for a robotic lunar lander. Experts widely agree that in order for lunar exploration to take place, the agency needs to partner with commercial lenders and other international organizations.
A 45-day study was commissioned by the Vice President, examining the agency’s approach to lunar exploration in detail. NASA’s budget request was, in part, based on the outcome of this report. There are no plans to release the details of the report to the public, but Lighthouse planned on briefing the Council, and the Vice President, this week.