The Lunar Gateway
The United States-led Lunar Gateway will be the next major international collaboration in human space exploration. It is an important part of an ambitious plan by NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) partners, including Canada, to send humans deeper into space than we have ever been.
Canada is contributing a smart robotic system, Canadarm3, to the Gateway, a small space station in lunar orbit.
About the Gateway
NASA is spearheading the initiative to establish the Gateway, a space station in lunar orbit. About one-fifth of the size of the ISS, this new outpost will be developed, serviced, and utilized in collaboration with international and commercial partners.
The Gateway will be:
- a science laboratory;
- a testbed for new technologies;
- a rendezvous location for exploration of the surface of the Moon;
- a mission control centre for operations on the Moon; and
- one day, a stepping stone for voyages to Mars.
When fully assembled, the Gateway will include modules for scientific research and living quarters for crews of four astronauts. They will be able to live and work on the Gateway for up to three months at a time, occasionally travelling to the lunar surface to conduct science and test new technologies. Eventually, these missions could last longer in order to prepare for the deeper-space missions of the future.
Unlike the ISS, the Gateway will not be crewed continuously, though it will be inhabited at least once a year. As an artificial intelligence-based robotic system, Canadarm3 will be able to tend to the Gateway when no humans are on board, including operating science experiments aboard the lunar outpost.
Like the ISS, the Gateway will be assembled in stages, using both NASA and commercial launch vehicles.
The launch of the first module, the Power and Propulsion Element, is currently scheduled for as early as . Other modules will be added afterwards.
The Gateway is expected to support science and technology demonstrations by .
Why orbit the Moon?
The area of space around the Moon can help us prepare for human missions to more distant destinations like Mars.
Building a space station around the Moon allows for:
- A deeper understanding of the possible health effects of cosmic radiation and solar storms on astronauts living and working outside of Earth's protective magnetic field
- Access to the lunar surface to conduct cutting-edge science
- A unique setting for technology demonstrations
- Observations of the stars, our Sun, and our planet
- An easier return to Earth
- Canada's role in Moon exploration
- The future of space exploration: beyond the International Space Station
- Canadarm, Canadarm2, and Canadarm3 – A comparative table
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