NASA will start work on its Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway by early 2019 when it will award the first contract for the program.
The lunar platform will be NASA's planned ‘staging’ area for studies of the moon and the deep-space environment. It will eventually also function as a gateway space station for Astronauts travelling to and from Mars.
• NASA would begin the work on the platform by first spending on power and propulsion elements in early 2019, followed by habitation components.
• They will be launched towards the moon, in that order, starting in 2022.
• The platform is expected to orbit the moon in 2025.
• It is expected to carry a four-astronaut crew on 30-day missions.
• The lunar platform- Gateway would provide impetus to NASA’s goal of fashioning another human landing on the moon.
• It will help determine whether water near the surface could be used to manufacture propellant for deep-space missions.
• The moon's gravity could also help a spacecraft reduce the blistering speeds used for six-month voyages back-and-forth to Mars, thus facilitating re-entry to Earth's atmosphere.
• In November, NASA selected five companies to study a high-power, solar-electric propulsion system to use in deep-space missions, including the lunar platform.
• Future human missions will require a power system that has triple the capability of current designs.
• The missions would be aboard Orion, a spacecraft being built by American global aerospace company Lockheed Martin, with the service module supplied by the European Space Agency.
• The Orion's first unmanned flight is scheduled for 2019. The craft will serve as the command deck when it's docked with the platform.