Gateway to space

Ever since the dawn of time, when humans go exploring and then expanding into new lands, taking the new frontier in stages has always provided security and helped planning. It is frightening to step into the unknown. But if you take it in stages, establishing safe places before that last push into the wilderness, you are more likely to succeed. Remember the golden arch in St. Louis? That town, later city, was the gateway to westward expansion. Without the security of a safe arrival on the doorstep of the frontier, many folks would not have ventured from Boston, New York, Baltimore or Atlanta.

St. Louis was the pioneering families’ Conestoga wagons’ gateway then and now NASA is creating a true gateway in space. For 12 years NASA and contractors have been building a delivery system to space expansion called Artemis. In case you didn’t know, successive administrations for 12 years have been funding Artemis, including the most powerful rocket ever called the SLS (Space Launch System). The SLS is already funded for the next 10 years and they budgeted and are building infrastructure for 40 of them. Atop the SLS sits the Orion Spacecraft that will carry 4 Astronauts and supplies for 21 days, each time. Orion will take the crew to Lunar orbit where NASA and Northrop Grumman will soon begin building the Gateway. Gateway will be the first real space station, checking in and then dispatching astronauts to the Lunar surface in the HLS (Human Landing System) where they will assemble and live in the Artemis Base Camp on the surface. When the time comes, those Lunar explorers will climb into their HLS and return to the Gateway, awaiting a ride back to Earth on Orion, to splash down in the Pacific or Atlantic.

The HLS and the Orion are reusable. How many missions to the Moon will there be? Given that 14 countries have already signed up to participate and use Gateway and Artemis’ systems, it is impossible to know, especially as NASA is also opening up commercial partnerships. Already SpaceX and others are quickly signing up and committing funding.

You can almost hear this generation’s Conestoga wagon wheels on the Moon already….

Why the Moon? NASA: “All that we build, all that we study, all that we do, prepares us to go further.” For starters, innovations of past spaceflight now form the basis for over 80% of the global industrial complex and more than that in private lives (just think smartphones and TVs). What we learned with Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the Shuttle gave us the world we have today. Artemis will reveal pathways we cannot begin to imagine. And without living on the Moon and discovering all it has to offer, we cannot begin to properly prepare to live on Mars and other planets. Human expansion and advancement are taking a giant leap forward with Artemis and we should, as a species, be justifiably proud.

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.

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