Since March, when Mike Pence, Vice President of the U.S., unexpectedly announced a program to get humans on the moon by 2024, NASA has been trying hard to pull off what many think is a near-impossible feat. But, the agency took a crucial step toward the objective by signing a contract to create the first elements of a small space station that it wishes to put in orbit around the moon.
Colorado-based company, Maxar, will manufacture what’s known as the power and propulsion element of the orbiting outpost, called Gateway.
Instead of directly heading to the surface of the moon, which was the norm during the Apollo program, NASA wants to create the Gateway for its lunar mission, which it has named Artemis. Along with the propulsion and power element, the Gateway could get a habitat for astronauts; space vehicles would ferry the astronauts to and from the lunar surface.
“We’re still left with a lot of unanswered questions about how we get to 2024.” Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., chairwoman of a NASA overseeing subcommittee, recently said in an interview.
“We’re going to need more rocket scientists, not fewer.”, she said. “Pell Grants is an important program.”
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has said that NASA’s return to the moon has been foiled not by technical issues but by “political risk”.