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TechnologyNASA's lunar orbiter key to returning humans to the moon

09:30  06 june  2019
09:30  06 june  2019 Source:   floridatoday.com

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Gateway, NASA's proposed lunar orbiter, is essential to returning humans to the moon by 2024, said Mark Weise, one of the Gateway program's managers during a panel discussion at Space Congress Wednesday.

Astronauts going to the moon would first go to Gateway. From there, a lunar lander would bring them down to the moon's surface. On the return trip, the lander would bring them back to Gateway, where the astronauts would then transfer to their capsule for the ride back to Earth.

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The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. Data collected by LRO has been described as essential for planning NASA ' s future human and robotic missions to the Moon .

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Weise compares Gateway to the Base Camp at the foot of Mount Everest, where climbers gather all the equipment they'll need to try to reach the peak.

While astronauts will be able to spend some time on Gateway, it won't be the lunar equivalent of the International Space Station, which Weise described as "house in space."

"This is an RV we will have in lunar orbit," he said.

NASA has dubbed the return-to-the-moon program Project Artemis, after the Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon, who was the twin sister of Apollo.

Panelists said NASA engineers and scientists are increasingly optimistic — and excited — about the prospects of returning humans to the moon within five years and then eventually on to Mars.

Last month, the Trump administration asked Congress for an additional $1.6 billion in the coming fiscal year to jump start the Artemis program.

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The Trump administration ' s proposed 2019 NASA budget provides resources to advance exploration of the moon and deep space and pursue cutting-edge science, technology and aeronautics research breakthroughs.

"We want to create a foothold on the new frontier," said Bill Hill, NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development.

They acknowledged that doing so won't be easy, though they are confident NASA and its commercial partners can overcome any technological hurdles they might face.

NASA's lunar orbiter key to returning humans to the moon© Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

"It's hard," said Steve Clarke, NASA's deputy associate administrator for science exploration. "We've done it before, but that doesn't make it technologically less difficult."

The most difficult part of the mission won't technological, Weise said.

"The hardest part will be explaining what we are doing so the public supports us."

Contact McCarthy at [email protected] or 321-752-5018.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: NASA's lunar orbiter key to returning humans to the moon

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