NASA has a full plate of moon missions astronauts back to the Moon

What will it take for NASA to get humans back on the moon? Apart from a still unknown sum of money, the agency will have to start over 37 moon missions between now and 2028, according to a launch manifest, presented at a meeting of the NASA advisory council on Tuesday (May 21).

The preliminary timeline that was presented with an infographic referred to as “pre-decisional,” is not yet carved in stone. But it is what some official bodies seen as the best way to return astronauts to the moon in 2024 and to build a sustainable presence on the moon through the Moon-Orbital Platform-Gateway by 2028.

Of the 37 missions included in the launch manifest, 15 would take place before the astronauts to the moon in 2024. That 16th mission, called Artemis 3 (formerly exploration mission-3, or EM-3), the second manned flight of NASA’s new name Artemis program.

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NASA’s Orion crew capsule, set to be launched on top of NASA’s new Space Launch System megarocket, will astronauts to the moon orbit, where they dock with the moon-a gateway for the descent to the surface in a commercial landing of the vehicle. Exactly who will build lunar lander and how much it will cost remain a mystery, but NASA recently awarded $45.5 million to 11 U.S. companies to assist with the funding of the development of the proposed landers.

Artemis 1, or EM-1, an uncrewed test flight of Orion and SLS and is scheduled for launch in June of 2020. Then, in 2022, Orion will carry astronauts to the moon for a flyby mission, but they will not attempt a moon landing. For each of these Artemis missions take place, however, NASA must first the Ascent Abort-2 test of the Orion spacecraft, which is scheduled for July 2, 2019.

And before NASA sends astronauts to the moon in 2024, the agency will launch first five aspects of the Moon-Gateway, all of which will be commercial vehicles that launch separately and join each other in the lunar orbit. First, a power and propulsion element will be in 2022. Then, the crew module (without crew) in 2023.

In 2024, during the months prior to the manned landing, NASA will launch the final critical components: a transmission of the vehicle that will ferry-landers of the Gateway to a lower lunar orbit, a descent module, which the astronauts on the lunar surface, and the ascent module that bring them back to the transmission of the vehicle, after which they return to the Gateway.

Although the figure shows that three Gateway elements launch in 2024, and NASA is possible to kill three birds with two stones and achieve that goal through the launch of only two elements, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said at the meeting of the NASA Advisory Council.

“We see that the three elements ( … ) a piece of the ascent, a transfer of the vehicle in the ascent and descent of the vehicle down to low lunar orbit [and] a descent stage to go down to the actual surface. We are not sure 100 percent that this is necessary three elements, so we asked the industry, because we have seen a number of proposals where they do it with two pieces, maybe two and a half — there are a few different considerations they have given to us,” said Gerstenmaier.

Related: Can NASA Really Astronauts on the Moon in 2024?

Along with that two or three Gateway elements, NASA plans to launch up to seven robotic missions to the moon’s surface by the agency of Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. These commands would mean that the rovers and landers that would be the research to carry out research and to explore ways that future missions can make the moon’s natural resources.

After Artemis 3, NASA would launch four manned missions to the moon’s surface between 2025 and 2028. In the meantime, the agency would work to expand the Gateway with the launch of additional components and crew of the vehicles and laying the groundwork for a possible moon base.

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