NASA reveals its plans to have astronauts orbiting the moon by 2025

2019 will likely be a busy year for NASA. At the Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier announced that the agency will begin awarding contracts for its lunar “Gateway” program, with a goal of having four astronauts in orbit around the moon by 2025.

Bloomberg reports that NASA has begun the process of constructing the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, beginning with contracts for power and propulsion components, followed by habitation, logistics, and airlocks. The components will be launched and the Gateway constructed in space beginning in 2022.

“The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will give us a strategic presence in lunar space. It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources,” said Gerstenmaier. “We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars.”

The Orion spacecraft, developed by Lockheed Martin, will provide trips to the Gateway aboard the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. “Development of the gateway has great momentum, and we are providing our expertise as NASA looks to industry to bring know-how to this important effort,” Lockheed said in a statement.

Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first unmanned Orion test flight, is planned for 2019. Its three-week mission will take it within 62 miles of the lunar surface and then into orbit some 40,000 miles high before its return to Earth. A manned test flight is planned for 2023.

Future experiments will determine if water can be extracted from the lunar surface and used to create propellant for future missions. “We want to understand orbital mechanics around the moon,” Gerstenmaier said. “Doing things in this region, where gravity isn’t such a big driver … is a different way of operating.”

According to NASA, the Gateway will allow further lunar exploration and even a staging area for exploration of the solar system. “It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources,” Gerstenmaier added. “We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars.”

The moon’s gravity can also be used to slow spacecraft down after their six-month journey from the Red Planet, before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Gernstenmaier said the agency’s goals are realistic from a budgetary standpoint and added that collaboration with commercial partners will expand the opportunities and capabilities in deep space: “As long as we view the moon as a stepping stone and not an end goal, I think we’re OK”

Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover passes its tests with flying colors

The Mars 2020 rover team has been undertaking a series of tests to see if the craft will be able to launch, navigate, and land on the Red Planet. Called Systems Test 1, or ST1, these tests represent the first test drive of the new rover.
Emerging Tech

Trip to Neptune’s moon, Triton, could inform search for extraterrestrial life

NASA has proposed sending a craft to Neptune to study its largest moon, Triton. Studying Triton could offer clues to how liquid water is maintained on planets, which may indicate what to look for when searching for life beyond our planet.
Emerging Tech

Unexpected particle plumes discovered jetting out of asteroid Bennu

The OSIRIS-REx craft traveled to asteroid Bennu last year and won't return until 2023. But the mission is already throwing up unexpected findings, like plumes of particles which are being ejected from the surface of the asteroid.
Emerging Tech

Scientists use drone to map Icelandic cave in preparation for Mars exploration

Researchers from the SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology have demonstrated a way that astronauts may be able to map Martian caves using a Lidar-equipped drone that can travel autonomously without GPS.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Petzl to Tikkid, here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Spacewalk a success as astronauts upgrade batteries on the ISS

The International Space Station was treated to some new batteries on Friday, thanks to two NASA astronauts who took a spacewalk for nearly seven hours in order to complete the upgrades.
Emerging Tech

Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

The Japanese Space Agency has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.
Emerging Tech

Chilean telescope uncovers one of the oldest star clusters in the galaxy

An ultra-high definition image captured by the Gemini South telescope in Chile has uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way. The cluster, called HP 1, could give clues to how our galaxy was formed billions of years ago.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover giant chimneys spewing energy from the center of the galaxy

Astronomers have discovered two exhaust channels which are funneling matter and energy away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy and out towards the edges of the galaxy, dubbed galactic center chimneys.
Emerging Tech

A milestone in the history of particle physics: Why does matter exist?

If matter and antimatter were both produced in equal amounts by the Big Bang, why is there so much matter around us and so little antimatter? A new experiment from CERN may hold the answer to this decades-long puzzle.
Emerging Tech

Dublin Airport has a novel idea for tackling rogue drones

There are a growing number of technology-based solutions for dealing with rogue drones flying near airports, but officials at Dublin Airport have come up with another idea for keeping the skies safe.