NASA Plans to Build a Moon-Orbiting Space Station: Here’s What You Should Know

“Mars is still important. It’s still the long-term goal,” Guidi said. “But the near-term focus is more about our neighbor in cislunar space.

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You've probably heard about the moon-orbiting space station that NASA plans to start building in the next half-decade.

This outpost, known as the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, will help humanity extend its footprint out into deep space and also enable a variety of interesting scientific and commercial activities on and around the moon, NASA officials have said.

But maybe you're a little hazy on the details of the Gateway (a much nicer shorthand than the acronym LOP-G) — what it will look like, for example, or where exactly it will set up shop. If so, the following primer on the basics of this planned deep-space station should help. [21 Most Marvelous Moon Missions of All Time]

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The first piece of the 55-ton (50 metric tons) outpost, its power and propulsion element (PPE), is currently scheduled to lift off in 2022. Other key components, such as a robotic arm, a crew habitat module and an airlock, will follow in relatively short order, if all goes according to plan. The Gateway could be ready to accommodate astronauts by the mid-2020s, NASA officials have said.

Those crewmembers won’t have nearly as much room to roam as they do on the 440-ton (400 metric tons), Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS). As currently envisioned, the Gateway will feature a minimum of 1,942 cubic feet (55 cubic meters) of habitable volume, compared to the 13,696 cubic feet (388 cubic m) on the ISS.

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