If someone mentions space station, you probably think on the one who flows right over the earth, or maybe a future when (if?) We make it to Mars.
But the newest space station can actually circulate a well-known heavenly orb: the moon.
According to a NASA procurement request, private companies are inviting the development of a new space station that would immediately run the moon from 2022.  In theory, the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway can serve as a jumping site for manned missions to the moon, including to its relatively untaxed father's side. The station could also help prepare the astronauts for Mars.
Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway "will give us a strategic presence in the near future," said NASA's operational administrator Robert Lightfoot in a press release in February (PDF).
It may seem quite easy to build a station on the moon, but there is a hiccups. The station would be too far from the moon to handle moon assignments on its own. It would need support from another, lesser-lane station and landlord that NASA has not even suggested to build. At the same time, the red planet quickly fades from NASA's planning, which can make the Gateway station difficult as far as Mars goes.
Therefore, experts warned that the Gateway station could not be very useful for productive space exploration. "It's a mixed bag," said Matt Siegler, a former NASA scientist now with the Arizona-based planet science institute, The Daily Beast.
But Siegler said that the Moon and Mars are not really the purpose of building another space station.
The score is actually much more grounded than you can imagine: China.
This is because the Asian space power can slink in front of the United States in the run back to the moon surface. "China seems to track to send astronauts to the moon since the 2020s, if not earlier," said Siegler.
In this context, Siegler said that America's New Moon Station represents a kind of extraterrestrial PR stunt, a significant part of space hardware NASA can launch before China's Taikonaut's step foot on the moon. "The gateway is basically a way of making a statement that the United States has a deeper space presence than other countries," says Siegler.
Despite this logistical uncertainty, NASA is moving forward and calls for industry proposals for the original Gateway components, and has asked the $ 500 million Congress to start paying for them in 201
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It's not a new idea. The space agency first proposed a moon station in 2013 as a lunch station for missions to redirect and redirect asteroids on a collision course with the earth. The Asteroid Defense project ended in 2017, but the thought of the station survived.
" The gateway is basically a way of making a statement that the United States has a deeper space presence than other countries. "
– Matt Siegler, former NASA scientist now at planetary science institute
the NASA spokeswoman Cheryl Warner told the Daily Beast that the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway in appearance, a kind of miniature version of the International Space Station that circles around the globe, can be "moved between lanes" so that it can " support moon fillings as well as explore further into the solar system, including Mars. "
For NASA, a moon mission is very urgent. NASA and private companies hope to discover valuable gases and minerals that can be broken and sent back to earth, or machined on the moon for the use of a Mars mission or a future moon base.
And then there is the "dark" side of the moon. Each previously manned mission to the moon surface has explored the moon's accessible proximity page. Due to the difficulty of receiving signals beyond the mass of the moon, only a few probes have collected data on its other side. (Sunlight actually hits the other side, so it's not really dark.)
Beijing launched the latest landing page page in May. A new American station, which reliably circles all over the moon, can make far-reaching missions more routine for Americans. "If we are to explore the untaxed, our diversity is our obvious goal," writes David Kring, a Texas-based Lunar and Planetary Institute researcher, in a 2018 paper that approves the Gateway station (PDF).  But the Gateway station alone can not return American astronauts to the moon surface – either near or far. It's because the station would travel along what NASA calls a "straight-line halo track" that would not take it closer to 1,000 miles to the moon.
It is too far from the moon for effective exploration. To support human astronauts or a large number of drones, the moon station would probably need help from a smaller substation that circles only 60 miles from the moon surface, as well as from a new generation of moon landers that NASA has not even begun to develop, Siegler pointed out.
"I would personally like to see many lunar landers and a new [low] lunar orbiter," said Siegler. "So if the Gateway does, I would support it." But he added that it might be better to simply increase drones and human explorers straight from earth to moon. Stopping over at the gate is "not necessarily cheaper."
As for Mars, William Gerstenmaier, a NASA-associated administrator, said that the Agency's Gateway experience "would eventually translate" into a manned mission on the red planet. 19659002] In 2015, Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin developed a loose concept for Mars landings involving training astronauts during layovers aboard orbital moonbases. A moon station can also serve as a gas station for Mars-bound spacecraft.
However, NASA has largely ignored concrete plans to land astronauts on Mars. The official website of the Office says that a manned Mars mission should be "sometime in the future".
But there is no real schedule. And NASA no longer develops many of the key technologies for a manned Mars mission. A manned mission is "overall," Chris Impey, a university's Arizona astronomer, told Daily Beast.
Until NASA is watching a Mars mission, Gateway station's ability to support that mission is meaningless. "A fuel depot beyond the moon would be useful for further exploration and Mars missions, but it's not part of the plan," said Impey.
Too far from the moon to effectively support moonlighting and meaningless to Mars without certain plans for a real mission to the red planet, Gateway has exposed to what it really is – a symbol of Siegler.
With China sending its own drones and people to the moon in the next few years, NASA and the White House seem to be spooked. They are looking for a close moon station to send a message, even if that station is inconvenient. "The United States is trying to make a political statement that they are leaders in space," says Siegler.