“ We will go to the Moon in the next decade in a way we have never gone before. We will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap - sending astronauts to Mars. ”
—NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
NASA’s science, technology and human exploration activities touch every aspect of our lives here on Earth and we want to extend our presence to the farthest corners of the universe. In doing so, we will maintain America’s leadership in space.
More than 45 years since we last set foot on the Moon, our president has renewed the nation’s focus on expanding humanity’s presence beyond Earth. Space Policy Directive-1 provides the direction for NASA to organize more effectively government, commercial and international efforts to develop a permanent presence off Earth that generates new markets and opportunities, both scientific and economic.
NASA is building a spacecraft to take astronauts to deep space that will usher in a new era of space exploration.
Orion will take us farther than we’ve gone before, and dock with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will carry up to four crew members and is designed to support astronauts traveling hundreds of thousands of miles from home, where getting back to Earth takes days rather than hours.
Both distance and duration demand Orion to have systems that can reliably operate far from home, be capable of keeping astronauts alive in case of emergencies and still be light enough that a rocket can launch it.
NASA will launch Orion on the agency’s powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, from a modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On the first integrated mission, known as Exploration Mission-1, an uncrewed Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about three weeks. A series of increasingly challenging missions with crew will follow including a test flight around the Moon before operational missions to the Gateway.
NASA and its partners are designing and developing a small spaceship in orbit around the Moon for astronauts, science and technology demonstrations known as the Gateway. Located about 250,000 miles from Earth, the Gateway will enable access to the entire surface of the Moon and provide new opportunities in deep space for exploration.
This new era of sustainable human exploration requires advanced technologies that are efficient, affordable and reliable. Solar electric propulsion offers these benefits and is a key technology for the Gateway. The first element to launch to space will be the power and propulsion element in 2022. This alternative propulsion system will enrich exploration at the Moon by enabling orbit transfers and reusable space tugs to and from the lunar surface.
Beginning with a series of small commercial delivery missions, we will use new tools and technology demonstrations to conduct more science across the surface of the Moon, and exploit the resources of our nearest neighbor ahead of a human return.
With some of humanity’s most advanced technologies, future astronauts will stay longer on the surface of the Moon, explore more of the Moon than ever imagined, and build a sustainable presence.
Working with American companies and leveraging the Gateway, NASA has proposed designing and developing a new reusable human lunar landing system. These elements include descent, transfer, refueling, ascent and surface suit capabilities. NASA is targeting launch of the first demonstration mission in 2024 to test the descent capability on the lunar surface. A second demonstration mission in 2026 will follow, testing the entire new system on the surface before a test mission with crew.
By 2028, NASA will be ready to send astronauts from the Gateway to the surface of the Moon. On this first mission, crew may stay on the lunar surface for up to seven days – longer than any other human mission in history.
Space Policy Directive-1 calls for NASA to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” With this direction from the president, NASA will put astronauts on the Moon in the next decade, and lay the foundation for human exploration of Mars.
Through Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, NASA is partnering with nine American companies to send new science instruments and technologies to the Moon ahead of a human return. NASA plans to issue its first task order for payload delivery services to the lunar surface this spring, and the first delivery could happen by late 2019 if commercial landers are ready. NASA will order more deliveries to the Moon as needed over the next decade.
NASA is targeting 2020 for the launch of its powerful Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft together for the first time from a modernized Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This uncrewed flight test, known as Exploration Mission-1, will demonstrate our capability to send crew spaceship to lunar orbit ahead of a return to the surface of the Moon. After launch, SLS will also deploy a number of CubeSats to perform experiments and technology demonstrations.
NASA is targeting 2022 to test its powerful Space Launch System with astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft. Launching again from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Exploration Mission-2 will fly a different path than the first test flight, and will take a crew around the Moon for the first time in fifty years. This first mission with astronauts will mark a significant step forward for regular missions with crew to lunar orbit, and ultimately on the surface of the Moon and beyond.
The power and propulsion element for the Gateway will launch on a private rocket by December 2022, and provide a one-year demonstration in space. Using advanced solar electric propulsion, this first module of the Gateway will provide power, propulsion and communications for the entire spaceship as its assembled and operated.
NASA is working with commercial industry to develop mobility platforms, such as rovers, to carry science instruments and look for and sample water-ice (volatile) deposits. Landing a rover in 2023 on the Moon will be the beginning of better understanding the nature of lunar volatiles and could lead to new scientific discoveries. It will also provide us knowledge as to how we can use the water-ice for fuel, oxygen and drinking water for human exploration missions to lunar surface.
The third mission of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, Exploration Mission-3, is targeted for launch in 2024 and will carry the first crew aboard Orion to visit the Gateway.
Working with American companies, NASA will build a new human lunar lander system. Launching on a private rocket, the agency will test the descent element on the surface of the Moon. This will be the first of two tests of systems built for humans before sending crew to the surface a few years later.
NASA’s proposed human lunar landing system consists of a descent element, an ascent element, a surface spacesuit, a transfer vehicle and refueling capabilities. The agency will test this whole system together on an uncrewed mission to the surface of the Moon.
NASA is going back to the Moon to stay, in a measured, sustainable fashion. By 2028, we’ll send crew from the Gateway to the surface of the Moon in our human lunar lander system. Crew will conduct a moonwalk and spend up to seven days on the surface – longer than any mission in history.
NASA is keeping its eyes on human exploration of Mars. Our sustainable Moon to Mars exploration approach is reusable and repeatable – we will build an open exploration architecture in lunar orbit with as many capabilities that can be replicated as possible for missions to the Red Planet.
Nine U.S. companies now are eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts, as one of the first steps toward long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars. [...]