NASA already has the International Space Station at its disposal, and with that in mind, many have come to question why the American space agency plans to build a second space station called the Lunar Gateway. It’s easy to see both sides to this argument, but if we’re to push space science forward, building the second space station is undoubtedly a no-brainer.
The Lunar Gateway will be substantially different from the modern-day International Space Station as it intends to serve NASA’s Artemis program during deep space missions for astronauts involving the Moon and beyond. Instead of being a hub for space science like the International Space Station is currently, the Lunar Gateway will be a lot more like what it sounds like – a gateway that astronauts will visit before being deployed on deep space missions.
The Artemis program intends to kick things off with crewed Moon landings, and that’s why it’ll orbit the Moon. Situated there, NASA can send spacecraft from Earth to the Lunar Gateway, and then from the Lunar Gateway to the Moon. Likewise, astronauts will be able to leave the Moon to get back to the Lunar Gateway and return to Earth from there.
The Lunar Gateway will house life support systems and everything astronauts need to carry out their missions. More importantly, its modular design will make it expandable, improving the versatility of its deep space capabilities over time, perhaps as a go-between for distant-future Martian missions.
The International Space Station isn’t capable of being a go-between for deep space missions because it’s too close to Earth and already nearing the end of its projected life as a hub for government space research. Soon, it could be commercialized, and this will make the Lunar Gateway that much more important for NASA and future deep space missions outside of our limited atmosphere.