The US-based space agency NASA and the government of Japan have officially signed the deal for the lunar Gateway under the Artemis program. The lunar Gateway is an orbiting outpost, which will be built by commercial and international partners. This deal is expected to strengthen the efforts taken by the US to involve global partners in sustainable lunar exploration as a part of the Artemis program. It will test the tools, which are required for human missions to Mars. Japan is going to provide many inputs for the Gateway’s International Habitation Module (I-Hab) under this deal. The country will offer the heart of Gateway life support facilities and extra space, where the crew will reside, work, and conduct studies for the Artemis program. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) includes many planned contributions such as environmental controls for I-Hab, batteries, thermal controls, life support system, and imagery elements, which will be added to the module by the European Space Agency (ESA) before the launch. These tools are crucial for sustained Gateway operations during manned and unmanned missions. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said that the latest deal with Japan to support long-term human missions on and around the moon will strengthen their international partnership. He has said that with this deal they will be able to achieve their common goals of sustainable lunar study in the next 10 years.
Under a deal with Northrop Grumman, JAXA is going to provide batteries for the Gateway’s Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), which is an initial crew cabin for astronauts traveling to the Gateway. Japan has been testing the improvements to its HTV-X cargo resupply spacecraft, which might lead to its use for the Gateway logistics resupply. Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Kathy Lueders has said that bracing the capabilities, which have been offered by the international partners, is a key to enable access to the lunar surface. She has said that NASA is honored to go ahead in these novel efforts with Japan and other partners. With this deal, NASA is expected to provide crew prospects to Japanese astronauts to the Gateway. However, it will be decided after further discussions in the future. The Gateway is around one-sixth the size of the International Space Station (ISS). It will serve as a tryst point for astronauts visiting lunar orbit aboard the Orion spacecraft of NASA. The Gateway will act as a meeting point for the Space Launch System rocket before the transit to low lunar orbit and the surface of the moon. NASA and other partners will be using this lunar vantage point as a launchpad for robotic and human missions to the moon and Mars from the Gateway.
Scientists have said that capabilities provided by Japan are essential to enable the interior atmosphere of the gateway. Gateway Program manager at NASA, Dan Hartman has said that it will help astronauts to live and work for long durations. He has said that with the life support systems provided by Japan, the Artemis crew can achieve long-duration missions with the least logistics resupply. Astronauts from NASA will board a privately developed lander for the final part of the trip to the lunar surface. NASA has joined hands with the US industry to make the first two components of the Gateway. These components are Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and the HALO. NASA has signed a deal with a private firm to develop the logistics resupply for the Gateway as well. Japan has joined two other global partners along with NASA while committing to the Gateway. The US and Canada have signed the deal to be part of the gateway mission in November 2020. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is going to offer an external robotic system for the outpost, robotic interfaces, and end-to-end robotic operations. ESA will provide I-Hab module and refueling modules along with improved lunar communications. Last year in March, NASA has chosen the first two scientific explorations to fly aboard the Gateway. One has been from NASA and another one from ESA. In this deal, NASA and other partners will share the scientific data, which will be sent to Earth. NASA will choose more scientific payloads to fly aboard the outpost in the future. The outpost will help the activities to test the tools, which are crucial for human missions to Mars. The Gateway mission has been one of the most anticipated projects of NASA for this year.