ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Says Lunar Gateway is Next Step

Lunar Gateway concept. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB), which oversees the management of the ISS, met on March 5th, 2019. Its members[1] acknowledged the recent 20th anniversary of the launch of the first International Space Station module and celebrated the success of the ISS partnership. This international team has not only built the space station and risen to the challenges of its day-to-day dynamic operation, but – most importantly – delivered tangible benefits to humanity.

Important outcomes of the ISS include both new scientific knowledge and technical innovation. These advancements address sustainable development here on Earth and help preparations to extend human presence further into our Solar System. The MCB highlighted the fact that more than 100 countries have now used the space station for research or education. Furthermore, representatives noted with satisfaction that the ISS is nurturing a growing economy in Low Earth Orbit research, business and services.

Looking beyond the ISS, the MCB recalled the historic achievement almost fifty years ago of the first human landing on the Moon. It reviewed the extensive work carried out by the ISS partners to study concepts for extending human exploration to the Moon and subsequently to Mars. Emphasising the importance of affordable and sustainable exploration, the MCB discussed their common interest in deploying a human outpost in the lunar vicinity as the next step. Known as the Gateway, it will serve as a way station one thousand times more distant from Earth than today’s ISS, to support exploration of the lunar surface.

Within a broader open architecture for human lunar exploration, the MCB acknowledged the Gateway as a critical next step. The Gateway will support human and robotic access to the lunar surface, and build invaluable experience needed for the challenges of later human missions to Mars. The unique location of the Gateway will offer a platform for important scientific discovery in a deep space environment very different from that of the ISS and enable lunar surface exploration. Its special orbit will also provide excellent visibility of both the Earth and the Moon’s surface for communications relay purposes.  It will stimulate the development of advanced technologies, expand the emerging space economy, and continue to leverage the societal benefits of space exploration for citizens on Earth.  Gateway will ultimately enable international and commercial partners to participate in human exploration, research and technology development and will be foundational for establishing a sustained human presence around and on the Moon.

Following several years of extensive study among the agencies culminating in a  successful technical assessment, the MCB endorsed plans to continue the Gateway development.  It welcomed each agency’s intention to proceed toward their respective stakeholders’ approval and funding processes for providing specific elements, modules, and capabilities to the Gateway and associated benefits based on a common concept (see Graphic)

The MCB welcomed with enthusiasm Canada’s announcement on February 28th, 2019, that it would participate in the Gateway and contribute advanced robotics, making the Canadian Space Agency the first partner agency to join NASA in the Gateway.

Finally, recalling the ambition and far-sighted decisions that led to the success of both Apollo and the ISS, MCB members affirmed their common hope that the Gateway should secure new achievements in the field of space exploration, serve as the next step on a sustainable path to the Moon and beyond, and inspire the next generation as a future success of international cooperation in science and technology.


[1] representing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Government of Japan’s Ministry for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the State Space Corporation Roscosmos

  • ThomasLMatula

    What a surprise 🙂

  • Jeff Smith

    Looks cool. Go build it!

  • P.K. Sink

    I like the international aspect of this…and I like the commercial possibilities. The real fun will be in seeing how SpaceX’s Starship will either complement or compete with this architecture. Let the games begin.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    If Starship is available then there is no point in building LOP-G in that awful NRHO orbit.

    IIRC the pressurized habitable volume of the Starship is more than the volume in the ISS.

    You could have a cis-Lunar logistic vehicle, a Lunar orbital platform and a reusable heavy Lunar lander with the Mars transport variant of the SpaceX Starship,

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    It’s a mess. The ISS took how long to build and cost how much and was in LEO and this LOP-G is where with multiple partners again? Just never going to fly and anyway there’s no logical reason for it to exist.
    Another detour. Just put it on the surface and be done with it.
    Cheers
    Neil

  • P.K. Sink

    True…but…as of right now…no one is willing to pay SX to develop that capability. No bucks…no Buck Rogers.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Well, if SX sees a business case it can close, there is plenty of money available for them to build it themselves.

  • P.K. Sink

    That would be too cool. Like I said…let the games begin.

  • P.K. Sink

    I dunno. The Internationals really want to be a part of this. And…at least the Russians and Europeans…would probably team up with the Chinese if we didn’t offer them the opportunity to team up with us. I don’t see that as being in our best interest.

  • duheagle

    So give them spots in a lunar surface base made possible by SH-Starship in lieu of Gateway.

  • P.K. Sink

    Sure. But nobody…including SX…is proposing that.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    IIRC Bigelow did using a self-landing habitat and that was before SH and Starship. Not any more complicated that this boondoggle.
    Cheers
    Neil

  • duheagle

    Once SH-Starship flies, Trump and Pence will propose it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Yes

  • Robert G. Oler

    Completely useless…

  • P.K. Sink

    Fear not Beanster. Bridenstine said that if someone can demonstrate another way to land on the moon…NASA would be very open to partnering with them. So…if SpaceX builds it…they will come. Meanwhile…I like the Gateway.

  • ThomasLMatula

    NASA really does very good viewgraphs. Look at the detail in that slide. But viewgraphs are not a substitute for a realistic space strategy which is what NASA needs. Hopefully Administrator Bridenstine suggesting a commercial mission to replace the SLS on EM-1 will get some attention.

  • savuporo

    Yo ISS Multilateral Coordination board. Can you spell out why any of this needs heavy lift rockets ? Because it doesnt

  • ThomasLMatula

    If they really are so focused on providing a replacement to the ISS they should at least move the Gateway to the Earth-Moon L-1 location so it has some utility.