NASA, European Space Agency Formalize Artemis Gateway Partnership: All you need to know

NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) have finalized an agreement to collaborate on the Artemis Gateway to engage international partners in a sustainable lunar exploration and to demonstrate the expertise needed for future missions to Mars.
Artemis Gateway Partnership| Credits: NASA
Artemis Gateway Partnership| Credits: NASA

NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) have finalized an agreement to collaborate on the Artemis Gateway. The agreement is a key component of the United States' broader efforts to engage international partners in a sustainable lunar exploration and to demonstrate the expertise needed for future missions to Mars. 

On October 27, 2020, the agreement was signed and reflects NASA's initial commitment to launch international crew members to the lunar vicinity as part of NASA's Artemis missions.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine stated, “This partnership leverages the outstanding cooperation established by the International Space Station as we push forward to the Moon. Gateway will continue to expand NASA’s cooperation with international partners like ESA, ensuring the Artemis program results in the safe and sustainable exploration of the Moon after the initial human lunar landing and beyond.”

The agreement is a critical part of NASA's efforts to lead an unprecedented global alliance on the Moon. More Gateway agreements with other international partners will be implemented in near future, which will have a significant impact on the creation of robust and sustainable lunar exploration facilities.

Under this agreement, ESA will provide habitation and refuelling modules, as well as improved lunar communications, to the Gateway. The refuelling module will also include staff observation windows. In addition to providing hardware, ESA will be responsible for the functionality of the Gateway components it provides. ESA also provided two additional European Service Modules (ESMs) for NASA's Orion spacecraft. These ESMs will launch and power Orion in space for future Artemis operations and provide air and water to its crew members. 

Japan aims to contribute two docking ports to the International Habitat Module (I-Hab), where human landing systems can aggregate. The accommodation module will house Outpost’s Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), equipment for internal and external science experiments and will also provide additional crew work and accommodation. I-Hab's ECLSS will increase the power of the Gateway life support system provided by Orion spacecraft and will also provide longer lengths at Gateway and support the robust Artemis missions to the lunar surface.

The Gateway will be assembled in orbit around the Moon as a staging point and enabling platform for missions to the lunar surface, Mars, and other deep-space destinations. About one-sixth of the size of the International Space Station, Gateway will serve as a space station located tens of thousands of miles from the moon's surface, in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit, where NASA and its international and commercial partners will be able to advance robotic and human expeditions to and near both the moon and Mars.

It will serve as a meeting points for space astronauts between NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion before moving on to the lower lunar orbit and the surface of the moon.

In conjunction with acquiring commercial services to bring NASA astronauts on the final leg of the lunar mission, NASA has entered into an agreement with the US industry to establish the first two parts of Gateway, the Power and Propulsion Element integrated and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, as well as the logistics resupply for Gateway. 

In March, the first two scientific investigations to fly aboard the Gateway were selected, one from NASA and the other from ESA. ESA developed the European Radiation Sensors Array or ERSA, while NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is building the Heliophysics Environmental and Radiation Measurement Experiment Suite, or HERMES. Two mini meteorological stations will split up the work and ERSA will monitor space radiation at high power with a focus on astronaut protection, while HERMES will monitor lower energies critical to scientific investigations of the Sun.

All international partners of Gateway will work together to share the scientific information to be transmitted to Earth. More scientific co-funding will be selected to fly aboard the Gateway in the future.

In addition to supporting lunar missions, Gateway will support activities that will test the technology required for human travel on Mars. Using Gateway, NASA will demonstrate remote control and long-term reliability of autonomous space systems and other technologies.

About Artemis Gateway

The U.S. Government has funded the Artemis Program which aims at landing 'the first woman and the next man' on the surface of the moon, specifically at the lunar south pole region by the year 2024. 

It is carried out by NASA and the U.S. commercial spaceflight companies contracted by NASA. In addition to this, the program also includes international partners such as the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Italian Space Agency (ASI) the Australian Space Agency (ASA), the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA).

Although NASA is leading the program, it wants the international partners for the safe and sustainable exploration of the Moon after the initial human lunar landing and eventually sending humans to Mars. 

President Donald Trump signed  Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, authorizing the lunar campaign. NASA made a request for 1.6 billion USD in additional funding for Artemis for FY 2020, while the Senate Appropriations Committee requested from NASA a five-year budget profile for the evaluation and approval by Congress.

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