Econintersect: NASA is proposing to put a space station in real outer space, beyond the orbit of the moon. This would create a manned presence in space further from earth than man has yet traveled and create a way station for further exploration of the moon and exploration of near-earth asteroids. It could also be the stepping stone for manned flights to Mars.
Click on picture for larger image.
The name for this new vehicle is the “gateway spacecraft,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. Here is an excerpt from the Sentinel:
Documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show that NASA wants to build a small outpost — likely with parts left over from the $100-billion International Space Station — at what’s known as the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2, a spot about 38,000 miles from the moon.
At that location, the combined gravities of the Earth and moon reach equilibrium, making it possible to “stick” an outpost there with minimal power required to keep it in place.
This proposed space station would be 227,000 miles from the earth, more than 1100 times the 200-mile orbit of the international space station.
The following NASA graphic illustrates the five Lagrange points.
No mention has been made of how much such a venture would cost and whether there have been any indications from anyone in government (or potentially to be in government) has given any support to the idea.
There is possible commercial interest in a venture such the gateway spacecraft. In April a company named Planetary Resources, replete with a host of wealthy, well-known backers, announced an ambitious asteroid mining mission in April (GEI News and Planetary Resources press release).
Planetary Resources appears to be focused on working from a low-earth orbit structure (see agreement with Virgin Galactic) but the new proposed NASA mission could be a natural way to increase the capability of their effort.
Why is Planetary Resources embarking on this expensive venture? Figures have been mentioned of great wealth waiting out there. As much as $20 trillion in minerals from a single asteroid has been mentioned. More platinum that has ever been mined in earth’s history for another single asteroid has also been thrown out. Of course, Econintersect does not believe anyone has assay reports to back such figures.
- NASA to build manned space station beyond the Moon? (David Szondy, Gizmag, 25 September 2012)
- NASA considers orbital outpost near moon as next project (Mark K. Matthews, Orland Sentinel, 23 September 2012)
- New Venture: Mining Asteroids (GEI News, 22 April 2012)
- Planetary Resources, Inc. Announces Agreement with Virgin Galactic for Payload Services (Planetary Resources website, 11 July 2012)
- Asteroid mining plans revealed by Planetary Resources, Inc. (Press Release, Planetary Resources, 24 April 2012)