JOHANNESBURG — The European Space Agency (ESA) signed a nearly €296 million ($362 million) contract with Thales Alenia Space Jan. 7 to build a European module for NASA’s lunar Gateway space station.
The initial elements of NASA’s lunar Gateway are facing cost overruns and delays primarily because NASA has changed the requirements of the program since awarding contracts last year.
The European Space Agency has awarded contracts for work on elements of its moon and Mars exploration program, ranging from modules for the lunar Gateway to a mission to return Mars samples to Earth.
The head of Russia’s space agency said that the lunar Gateway, part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, is too “U.S.-centric” for it to participate in, even though the Gateway leverages the existing International Space Station partnership.
NASA announced June 5 that it awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to begin work on a habitation module for the lunar Gateway, nearly a year after the agency announced its intent to sole-source that module to the company.
NASA is making several changes to its plans to return humans to the surface of the moon by 2024, including launching the first two elements of the lunar Gateway together and adding a critical demonstration to the first crewed Orion flight.
NASA released a report April 2 outlining its long-term approach to lunar exploration that involves establishing a “base camp” at the south pole of the moon, but with few details about cost and schedule.
NASA announced March 27 it has selected SpaceX to provide cargo transportation services for the agency’s planned lunar Gateway.
A revised plan for returning astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024 will no longer rely on the use of a lunar Gateway, although NASA’s human spaceflight head says the agency is still committed to eventually developing it.
NASA announced March 12 it will fly two heliophysics and space weather experiments on the lunar Gateway to collect data to help future human missions to the moon and beyond.
A top NASA official said Feb. 28 he expects the first flight of the Space Launch System to take place in the second half of 2021, a later date than prior agency statements.
NASA awarded a contract to Rocket Lab Feb. 14 for the launch of a cubesat mission that will serve as a precursor for the agency’s planned lunar Gateway.
A former NASA associate administrator for exploration argues that the lunar Gateway should be deferred if NASA is serious about achieving the White House goal of landing humans on the moon by 2024.