“NASA’s orbiting Lunar Gateway is either essential for a moon landing or a boondoggle in the making,” writes IEEE Spectrum.
the_newsbeagle writes: NASA is under pressure to put humans back on the moon by 2024… NASA’s plan for meeting that ambitious target relies on building a space station in lunar orbit, called the Gateway. NASA says it will use its (over budget and behind schedule) SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule to dock at this (yet unbuilt) Gateway, then send down a lunar lander. Critics say this is a stupid and over-complicated plan.
This article by veteran space reporter Jeff Foust explains how NASA got itself into this situation.
From the article:
Critics of the Gateway argue that NASA shouldn’t just scale back the space station — it should cancel the project altogether. If you want to go to the surface of the moon, the refrain goes, go there directly, as the Apollo missions did a half century ago. Building an outpost in lunar orbit adds expense, delay, and complications to a task that is already hard enough….
Critics say that technological alternatives are emerging in the commercial space sector. They look to Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and based near Seattle. Blue Origin is building both a reusable heavy-lift rocket, called New Glenn, and a lunar lander known as Blue Moon. Another contender is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., which is also working on a fully reusable rocket. It will carry an upper stage called Starship, which the company says could land directly on the moon and carry heavy cargo. “Having that vehicle on the moon can basically serve as the core of a pretty significant lunar outpost, growing with time,” said Paul Wooster, principal Mars development engineer at SpaceX.
The article ends by presenting two possibilities.
“If NASA, heedful of sunk costs and political realities, continues to march toward the Gateway, we may indeed witness a triumphant return of NASA astronauts to the moon’s surface in 2024…” “The determined billionaires behind SpaceX and Blue Origin might not wait around for NASA, and the next moon boots in the regolith might stamp a corporate logo in the dust.”