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Guide Why Mars: NASA and the Politics of Space Exploration

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Many nations are now interested in conducting scientific and commercial lunar activities, and our international partners have expressed great interest in collaboration. We're aggressively pursuing ways that other nations can contribute going forward. We must decide now whether we build on our legacy of American preeminence in science, technology, and exploration, or take a back seat and watch as other nations define our future. Scientifically, there is intense interest in what we can discover at the Moon, and recent discoveries have rewritten our understanding of the origin and history of our Moon and solar system.

For example, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter LRO mission data shows some lunar polar regions may contain abundant water ice deposits.

Future of Human Space Exploration

Understanding its sources and concentrations will help us understand how the Moon formed and evolved, and might provide resources for future explorers potentially everything from life support to rocket fuel. The farther humans venture into space, the more critical it becomes to manufacture materials and products with local resources. NASA is developing capabilities to access low lunar orbit and the lunar surface with multiple companies providing small payload transportation services. Lunar payloads from a variety of customers, including NASA, will fly on contracted missions starting in , enabling critical technology demonstrations and scientific observations.

These missions will acquire new science measurements and enable important technology demonstrations, whose data will inform the development of future landers and other exploration systems needed for astronauts to return to the Moon by For 60 years, American investment in NASA has returned to America and the world advances in science, technology, medicine, education, and industry. The Apollo program helped spur the computer revolution and led to the development of countless innovations we use on Earth every day, including cooling garments for use in medicine and sports, improved dialysis machines, water purification systems, selfrighting life rafts, flame resistant textiles, personal locator beacons and freeze-dried food.

Investments in NASA will continue to create new technological capabilities for our Nation, and as has always been the case, many will spin off to the public with medical, safety, economic, educational, and other benefits. Ultimately, exploration of the Moon and Mars is intertwined.

The Moon is a testbed for Mars, providing an opportunity to demonstrate new technologies that are necessary for crewed Mars missions: power and propulsion systems, human surface habitats, surface mobility, in situ resource utilization, and other capabilities that could help us build self-sustaining outposts in the solar system.

New methods of creating, storing, and transferring propellant will help maintain our presence on the Moon and fuel the journey beyond. NASA will continue to work with industry and academic partners to mature in-space manufacturing and assembly for more sustainable exploration missions. Generations past had the industrial revolution, the computing revolution, and the internet revolution. We believe the next economic revolution will happen in space, and the United States must lead if we are to empower future generations and secure our Nation's long-term prosperity. An emerging space economy built on resource utilization, tourism, and scientific research will power and empower countless future generations and create new jobs and industries.

The investment in NASA's Moon to Mars exploration undertaking already provides direct economic benefits and creates a variety of jobs across the country. More than 3, companies in all 50 states are already doing work to support Artemis missions. NASA is committed to achieving its exploration goals, and to reigniting America's passion for space exploration, innovation, and discovery. If we bring together the capabilities and resources of our international and commercial partners to return to the Moon and continue further on to Mars, we will demonstrate to young people around the world the power of a unified purpose.

It will serve as an unparalleled and inspiring example of what humankind can do when it comes together to achieve a common goal for the common good. Our efforts will involve the whole of the Nation, including the brightest minds of academia, businesses of all sizes and types, young people joining us at the beginning of their careers, and people worldwide inspired by our accomplishments and goals. The inspiration we will provide to the next generation helps us successfully draw new talent to the STEM careers of tomorrow.

On March 26, , the Vice President announced at a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama, that, at the direction of the President of the United States, it is the stated policy of the United States of America to return American astronauts to the Moon within five years and that, when American astronauts return to the lunar surface, they will take their first steps on the Moon's South Pole.

Our approach is to leverage and build upon our existing work and plans to achieve these new goals.

Funding NASA

Schedule performance by the SLS and Orion are critical to achieving a human return to the Moon by The Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate HEOMD completed an assessment of alternate approaches for hardware processing and facilities utilization for key components, with the goal of maintaining an early as possible Artemis 1 launch date. The NASA Office of the Chief Financial Officer performed a schedule risk assessment of the Artemis 1 launch date, including the integrated schedule and associated risk factors ahead of Artemis 1.

Online Engagement

NASA leadership is currently evaluating these results. Artemis 1 will be followed in by Artemis 2, a crewed mission with SLS and Orion to the lunar vicinity to test critical systems and lay the foundation for a lunar surface landing by Artemis 3 in SLS, along with the Orion spacecraft and the Gateway will be our backbone for deep space exploration.

NASA will use commercial services to deliver logistical supplies for the lunar missions and for transportation to the lunar surface. Having multiple transportation options has proven to be very valuable in other contexts and will be important to maintaining cost-effective, reliable access to the Moon and other locations.

The Gateway will function as a way station from which NASA, its international partners, and its commercial partners, can mount robotic and human expeditions to and around the Moon. SLS and Orion can reach lunar orbit, but our crews will need a place to rendezvous before going to low lunar orbit, and ultimately to the surface of the Moon.

The Gateway is that rendezvous point, located tens of thousands of miles from the surface in a NearRectilinear Halo Orbit.

Data Protection Choices

Given the urgency of a human landing in , NASA and its partners will focus initially on developing and deploying the Gateway's two initial components: the Power and Propulsion Element PPE and a minimal habitation capability. Both the PPE and small habitation element will be launched on commercial launch vehicles. The Agency is evaluating the prototypes across the country this spring and summer. For missions to the lunar surface, the current plan is for astronauts to employ a transfer vehicle to travel from the Gateway to low lunar orbit, a descent vehicle to land on the surface of the Moon, and an ascent vehicle to return to the Gateway.

The vehicles will be developed by the private sector and procured by NASA. NASA is moving rapidly to support development of these critical pieces of the exploration architecture. On May 16, , NASA announced the selection of 11 companies to conduct studies and produce prototypes of human landers for its Artemis lunar exploration program. These studies and prototypes will provide critical data needed to inform requirements for the Artemis 3 hardware. To reduce the risk associated with a landing and promote a competitive environment, NASA expects to make multiple awards for these systems.


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In FY , technology drives exploration as STMD will accelerate investments in lunar surface technologies through the Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative LSII , driving essential technologies required for humans to successfully operate on the lunar surface. The LSII activities will be implemented through a combination of unique in-house activities, competitive programs, and public-private partnerships.

LSII will also integrate systems for in situ resource acquisition and processing into mission consumables, including oxygen and water. This capability will reduce mission mass, cost, and risk of human exploration, leading to Earth independence.

The Politics of Space | The Planetary Society

Over the next five years, STMD will transition the key technologies below through the ground demonstration phase toward demonstrations on commercial lunar landers. In , the Solar Electric Propulsion project will complete the Critical Design Review for the electric propulsion subsystem, and build qualification units to conduct qualification testing of the Solar Electric Propulsion engineering development units for the high-power electric propulsion string. The first demonstration of this system will be a kilowatt-class Power and Propulsion Element for Gateway.

The Green Propellant Infusion Mission demonstrates a propulsion system using a propellant that is less toxic and has approximately 40 percent higher performance by volume than hydrazine, and which will reduce spacecraft processing costs. The Deep Space Atomic Clock demonstrates navigational accuracy improvements with 50 times more accuracy than today's best navigation clocks for deep space missions.

A sustainable exploration plan requires that we build using realistically available resources. We are designing an open, durable, reusable, and cost-effective architecture that will support exploration for decades to come. Phase 2 of our plan — achieving sustainability on the Moon — also requires partnerships from across the commercial sector and around the world, as well as reducing costs for all aspects of human spaceflight. Reducing costs will allow the Agency to invest in future deep space capabilities and use those new capabilities to conduct successful exploration missions.

Sustainability also includes the ability of our infrastructure, capabilities, and facilities to effectively and efficiently support our missions, while including sufficient flexibility to meet future needs as we continue to explore. Finally, sustainability requires that we remain focused on the next goal beyond the Moon. Systems and programmatic techniques we develop for lunar exploration will be designed to contribute to human exploration missions to Mars where feasible. As noted earlier, one component of establishing sustained American presence and infrastructure on and around the Moon is the Gateway, a spacecraft assembled in cislunar space that will be used as a staging point for missions to the lunar surface and to deep space destinations.

The Gateway will not be continuously crewed like the ISS. NASA currently envisions crew visits approximately once per year on the way to the lunar surface, so a strong focus is placed on robotic activities and infrastructure to foster ongoing investigations, technology demonstrations, and operations that can be conducted autonomously between crew visits. Today the Trump Administration wants the same thing. Can a failed lunar return effort help this one succeed?

But it would still kick off the first year of a new decade with a half-billion dollar cut to the space agency. Society members from across the United States came to Washington, D. Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration. Be part of this epic point in space exploration history!

It's Time to Get Serious About Going to Mars, NASA Says

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser. A Crash Program or Modest Proposal? Let's Change the World Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.


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