Facing 2024 deadline, NASA issues a report defending the Lunar Gateway

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Under some designs plans, the lunar Gateway more resembles the International Space Station than a small outpost.

Enlarge / Under some designs plans, the lunar Gateway more resembles the International Space Station than a small outpost. (credit: NASA)

On Wednesday, as NASA continued to press lawmakers to support an accelerated plan to return humans to the Moon, the space agency began distributing a document titled Why Gateway? in defense of a return. The document summarizes why NASA thinks a space station near the Moon is critical to human exploration, and it was first shared internally by the Gateway program office at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The document can be read here.

The five-page paper is not signed by any NASA official, nor is a point of contact listed. Additionally, because there are several grammatical errors and typos, it appears the document was rushed into production. Since it is not marked “for internal use only” and is written at a fairly general technical level, it seems meant for public consumption, including members of Congress amid criticism of the concept.

“I do not know whether it is intended as a formal statement of policy, but the fact that it was released anonymously means someone expected blowback,” said a NASA source who had read the document and is familiar with the agency’s plans to bring a human landing forward from 2028 to 2024. This source said the document accurately reflects what NASA’s chief of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, thinks about the Gateway and its role in human exploration. “It is certainly the most succinct summary of the thinking that goes into Gateway, and what the NASA HQ party line is, that I have read.”

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