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NASA unveils sustainable campaign to return to moon, on to Mars

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Staff Writer |
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America   NASA intends to transition from the current model of human space activities

NASA recently submitted to Congress a plan to revitalize and add direction to NASA's enduring purpose.

The National Space Exploration Campaign calls for human and robotic exploration missions to expand the frontiers of human experience and scientific discovery of the natural phenomena of Earth, other worlds and the cosmos.

NASA intends to transition from the current model of human space activities in low-Earth orbit to a model where the government is only one customer for commercial services.

Based on inputs from current partners, commercial and other stakeholders, NASA will shape the plan for the transition of low-Earth orbit activities from direct government funding to commercial services and partnerships, with new, independent commercial platforms or a non-NASA operating model for some form or elements of the International Space Station by 2025. In addition, NASA will expand public-private partnerships to develop and demonstrate technologies and capabilities to enable new commercial space products and services.

NASA is building a plan for Americans to orbit the moon starting in 2023, and land astronauts on the surface no later than the late 2020s. This will be the first chance for the majority of people alive today to witness a moon landing – a moment when, in awe and wonder, the world holds its breath. However, America will not stop there.

A key component of establishing the first permanent American presence and infrastructure on and around the moon is the Gateway, a lunar orbiting platform to host astronauts farther from Earth than ever before.

On the Gateway, America and its partners will prepare to transit deep space, testing new technologies and systems as we build the infrastructure to support missions to the surface of the moon and prepare for the epochal mission to Mars. NASA also will study the effects of the deep space environment of the Gateway, learning how living organisms react to the radiation and microgravity of a deep space environment over long periods.

The Gateway also will be assessed as a platform for the assembly of payloads and systems; a reusable command module for lunar vicinity and surface exploration; and a way station for the development of refueling depots, servicing platforms, and a sample return facility.

Some elements of the Gateway already are under construction at NASA centers across the United States, including facilities in Ohio, Texas and Alabama, and at commercial partner facilities. The Gateway will be assembled in space, incrementally, using the Orion spacecraft and SLS, as well as commercial launch vehicles. The first element, providing power and propulsion, will launch from Florida in 2022.

The first human landing on Mars – audacious in its complexity – will be an achievement recalled with awe far into humanity's future. Key components of the Exploration Campaign already are underway and include long-duration human spaceflight on the space station, development of advanced life support systems, and continuing to lead and advance the world in deep space science missions.

Overall, the Exploration Campaign focuses on a transformative approach that includes the development of technologies and systems that enable a series of human and robotic lunar missions that are extensible to Mars.


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