After being directed to return to the Moon by President Trump four months ago, NASA has presented a new roadmap to reach all the goals in Space Directive-1. The plan shifts emphasize from the recent “Journey to Mars” campaign, the Moon, to the Mars again.
Bill Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator of the NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said that the Moon would play a vital role in expanding the presence of a human in space, more particularly the solar system.
Though the updated plan shares similar destination with the Apollo program, the agency said that it would approach a more measured as well as sustainable return. Compared to the first trip to the moon, the journey in the coming years would be far different. They would work with commercial and even international partners.
To make the plan a reality, NASA outlined four comprehensive goals such as transition LEO spaceflight activities to some commercial operators, prolong the duration of such space activities, facilitate future’s robotic lunar exploration, and utilize past human Moon exploration as a basis for other space missions in the coming decades.
Low-Earth Orbit Objectives
The goals for low-earth is composed of the ending of support for the International Space Station in 2020. To make this happen, it would work best in all its commercial and international partners to construct a plan to transform station operations into a non-NASA operating model.
To replace the direct support from NASA, it suggests opening station visits to talented astronauts from other countries. It would also expand the partnership to different nations. Also, it proposes to expand commercial space participation, enabling new products as well as services on space.
The outpost that launched in November 1998 costs the agency $3 billion every year. Even though it still not clear how the funding would be utilized, it would be reasonable to assume that it could be allocated to other lunar, exploration, or deep space programs.
Although NASA’s shifts focus from Mars to the Moon, the agency’s Space Launch System would still play an important role in most of the lunar exploration objectives. The first flight of the Exploration Mission-1 would take place by 2020 to send a spacecraft to the Moon. EM-2 would also see SLS send enough astronauts to the Moon.
The interregnum between the two flights would see NASA’s work with all of its commercial partners, addressing other exploration roadmap parts, including the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway construction.