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NASA's accelerated lunar plans create uncertainty for international partners



COLORADO SPRINGS – As NASA continues to develop its plans to accelerate the return of humans to the surface of the Moon, the international partners are wondering what role they will play in this, if they have any approach to the goal that will be reached on 26 May March was announced in a speech by Vice President Mike Pence to land people on the South Pole of the Moon within five years. The agency has at least worked on an overarching approach internally and plans to share details with the White House this week, including the Office of Management and Budget, to complete a revised budget request that is expected to be expected ,

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in comments at the 35th Space Symposium that the agency would adopt a two-phase approach that underlined the speed first. This approach is expected to use the Space Launch System and Orion, Moon Lander, and some versions of a Moon Gateway.

However, this lunar gateway will likely be a downsized version of earlier concepts released just a month ago. This included a number of residential, utility, and other modules provided by NASA and other current international space station modules. Some concepts that are considered require only the power and drive element that NASA is currently procuring and a docking node that could also serve as a living module.

Publicly, potential gateway partners have said little about how NASA's accelerated approach would affect their ability or willingness to participate. During an April 1

0 panel discussion on exploration, officials from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are discussing directly NASA's new plans for international contributions to the Gateway or other elements Exploration means largely avoided architecture.

"We are now accepting the plans we have set up and seeing how we can accelerate them," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations. "The good thing is that we will show and prove that the architecture we have designed is adaptable to the plans we have set and we can move forward."

David Parker, Director of Exploration of People and Robots at the ESA, stressed that the gateway should be under all changes "flexible and sustainable". "It's flexible in the way it develops and grows over time."

However, international partners expressed concern over how the accelerated plans could affect their timetable or ability to contribute to overall exploration expenditures by delaying or even stopping contributions like gateway modules. This is particularly an issue in the ESA Member States as the Agency attests to its role in the exploration program at a ministerial meeting in Spain in November.

It also raises questions in Canada about the Prime Minister's government Justin Trudeau announced his plans to invest more than $ 2 billion in less than a month to develop a robotic arm for the gateway before Pence launched the new one Aimed for the landing of people on the moon. Canada was the first country except the United States to formally sign up for the Gateway program.

Bridenstine said he knew these worries. "It was a concern for our international partners, and they expressed it throughout the conference," he said in a briefing with reporters here on 9 April.

He said he told international partners that the two-phase approach This will shift to a more sustainable long-term effort after landing in 2024 and will still provide opportunities for international partners. He added that there may also be cases where partners such as ESA, which manufactures the Orion service module, could be asked to do more in the short-term. "We do not leave her. In fact, we could ask for more of them, "he argued.

Bridenstine said he was aware that partner space agencies needed to convince their governments to participate in the program, a challenge that may have been hampered by NASA's design change. "You have to buy politically from their legislators," he said. "We make sure we communicate, how important these international partnerships are and that the new agenda will not change that."

Specifically asked if Europe would have "perfect clarity". Commenting on the new plans this fall, Bridenstine said that was the case. "I told them that I would like to make a trip to Europe to reassure their leaders that our goals have not changed," he said, referring to language 1 in the Space Policy Guideline 1, which is one sustained return calls the moon with international partners. "I am happy to fly to Europe and meet with the political leadership to assure them that this is still on the agenda."

"The 2024 people on the surface of the moon [goal] do not enter in any On our international partnerships, "he continued. "We need and want international partnerships."


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