WATCH: Animation shows permanent lunar outpost’s mesmerizing dance around the Moon

The ESA project is set for a highly eccentric “halo” orbit around the Moon, perpendicular to the Earth (rectilinear), which is carefully calculated to minimize fuel use while providing the optimal view of the lunar surface for analysis, making it easier for manned missions to do their work with fewer potentially dangerous maneuvers.

At its closest point relative to the Moon, the lunar Gateway will come within 3,000km (1,864 miles), and 70,000km (43,496 miles) at its farthest point, all while swinging around the lunar poles. 

The station is designed to operate as a communications relay and staging post for future missions to the Moon, wherein astronauts can park their main spacecraft and head down to the lunar surface before coming back up and heading home. This avoids many of the complicated maneuvers required to successfully pull off a soft landing when traveling directly between Earth and the Moon, increasing overall mission efficiency while mitigating at least some of the risk.

The ESA plans to gradually construct the solar-powered Gateway station in the vicinity of the Moon during the 2020s and the site will ultimately boast an onboard laboratory for conducting experiments. 

Its seven-day lunar orbit is custom-designed to experience the fewest number of eclipses possible, which means there will be a weekly transfer window for resupply, enhancements and, hopefully, many manned missions, including NASA’s Artemis program.




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