Colorado Springs — NASA has released new details about the initial stages of its architecture to return humans to the moon as a step toward definitive missions to Mars.
speaking at 38y Space Symposium April 18, NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy rolled out 150-page document It describes its plans for the initial series of Artemis missions to the Moon and how it fits into the set of more than 60 goals of its long-term plans for human missions to the Moon and Mars.
“The architecture concept review details plans for early human exploration of the lunar south pole,” she said. “It provides further definition of plans with Artemis 4 and sets the stage for the first manned missions to Mars.”
The document describes how different programs under development fit together to carry out those missions, such as the Space Launch System, Orion, Gateway, and the Human Landing System. These programs are associated with specific objectives, functions, and use cases for those tasks.
Besides the architecture document, NASA has released several white papers To explain aspects of the architecture, such as using the semi-rectangular halo orbit around the moon and the gate that would operate in it.
“I think they provide a very brief description of why we are doing what we are doing, and especially how Artemis missions to the moon will reduce the risk of future Mars missions,” Milroy said of the white papers.
The document extends, on a higher level, to future phases of Artemis with continued exploration of the Moon and subsequent human missions to Mars. “We’ll learn a lot on the way,” she explained, “so we’re not ready to talk about continued presence yet on Mars, but we have the shape there.”
Other NASA officials have noted modifications to previous plans for later stages of Artemis, such as the shift from a single “base camp” at the Moon’s south pole to several sites that can be visited on subsequent Artemis missions.
Jim Frye, NASA’s associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, said in a briefing April 17 that because of changing lighting conditions in the Antarctic, the lack of a launch window for a specific location could delay a mission there by several months. “We could have two or three sites to go to that help our scientific diversity,” he said.
The structure was developed internally at NASA, but Milroy said there will be opportunities for industry and international partners to provide input. “We have identified some areas of cooperation,” she said, though the structure does not spell out specific procurement plans. “It helps show where we are and where we are going, and we know how important that is to our industry and our international partners.”
Milroy said NASA plans to hold forums this summer where these commercial and international partners will be able to provide feedback on architecture, as well as workshops organized by professional societies. This feedback will help NASA’s next round of architecture development, which will be conducted in annual cycles starting in November to work on later missions.
“NASA has put this strategy in place for longevity and success,” she said. “This is an important milestone for us in our Moon-to-Mars strategy. We feel very aligned with our partners. We want to continue to stay that way.”
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