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    • The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) is a proposed lunar space station. The goal is to get humans and technology a little deeper into space to pave the way for human-crewed missions to Mars and near-Earth asteroids. The LOP-G will even serve as the staging point for Mars-bound spacecraft.

      But, why?

      NASA is going to great lengths to build this platform near the moon, so why not build it on the moon? The lunar surface contains the material for radiation sheilding and possibly propellant. The moon could become a spacecraft parking lot and fuel station for lunar explorers and Mars transport spacecraft without the complexing of space docking. Plus, it's a great place to try out a Mars surface habitat.

      Buzz Aldrin thought the LOP-G proposal is absurd and said:

      Why would you want to send a crew to an intermediate point in space, pick up a lander there and go down?

      I have great respect for the brilliant people at NASA. There must be a reason why they want to do the LOP-G as proposed.

      Image: wikipedia

    • I know literally nothing about the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway or NASA's current plans to return to the moon beyond what I've just read in this post and the linked articles, but my first guess is that the LOP-G's primary purpose is to act as a funding anchor.

      NASA's budget and priorities are constantly at risk with every new Congress and every new presidential administration. The Bush administration wanted to return to the moon by 2015, but then the Obama administration defunded that mission after concluding it was over budget and behind schedule. Now the Trump administration wants to go to the moon again, but in a few years that could change once more.

      If NASA can get a lunar orbital platform built quickly for the ostensible purpose of serving as a gateway to the moon, then it'll be much harder for politicians to later justify defunding moon-related missions because then they'll have wasted that big beautiful expensive lunar orbital platform.

      So as long as the lunar orbital platform exists, it serves as a powerful anchor in funding debates that will help ensure NASA's moon missions continue to be funded, and could even help them get future funding for Mars missions ("We can use the LOP-G as a relay point for a Mars mission, so it's less expensive overall if we go to Mars now than if we wait!").

      But that's just my guess. 🤷‍♂️

    • Wow, this makes a lot of sense. I was thinking only about the science and exploration side of things, not the funding side. This would justify pumping money into the Space Launch System. Building spacecraft capable of ferrying loads from Earth to a lunar orbit is very expensive, as seen by the Saturn V. Maybe Elon's BFR / Starship combo will get the price down, but the SLS is a good bet that it will the payload necessary to get heavy payloads into a trans-lunar injection.

      I suppose it would be more expensive in the short term to build a lunar surface base, due to the unknowns. The international space community has a solid track record with LEO habitats and can apply that knowledge directly to the LOP-G. Though if I was a politician, I would be more excited to write a larger check for a lunar surface colony, because that is just plain cool and unprecedented. I would also feel more guilty cutting off funding to that. Maybe that is why I am not a politician.