Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

NASA and ESA ink Lunar Gateway deal

NASA yesterday announced that it has signed a deal with the European Space Agency (ESA) outlining their partnership in building the Lunar Gateway space station in orbit around the Moon.

Under this agreement, ESA will contribute habitation and refueling modules, along with enhanced lunar communications, to the Gateway. The refueling module also will include crew observation windows. In addition to providing the hardware, ESA will be responsible for operations of the Gateway elements it provides. ESA also provides two additional European Service Modules (ESMs) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. These ESMs will propel and power Orion in space on future Artemis missions and provide air and water for its crew.

For some reason NASA’s press release makes no mention of what ESA gets from the deal. From this news report:

[ESA] said it will receive “three flight opportunities for European astronauts to travel to and work on the Gateway” as part of the agreement.

I also note that there is no mention of the Artemis Accords in this agreement. As far as I can tell, right now the only ESA member who has signed on is the United Kingdom, and I am not sure of the UK’s status in the ESA considering their exit from the European Union. The two are different political deals, but exiting one might affect the other.

The Trump administration has said repeatedly that it will only partner in its lunar ambitions with countries that sign the accords. However, at this moment Congress has simply not funded those ambitions, so NASA needs partners to get things built. Moreover, Orion is a space capsule (costing about $18 billion and taking 20 years to build) that does not have a service module to provide it air and water. Europe provides that, and had only agreed to build two.

It might be that NASA has traded the accords away to get Europe’s help for both Gateway and Orion. This deal, announced now, might also be an effort by NASA (and Europe) to lobby Congress to fork up the cash.

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9 comments

  • mkent

    …I am not sure of the UK’s status in the ESA considering their exit from the European Union.

    The EU and ESA are separate entities. Membership in one does not require membership in the other.

    I also note that there is no mention of the Artemis Accords in this agreement.

    Correct. The Artemis Accords are a clarification of the Outer Space Treaty, which is a treaty among sovereign nations. As such, the Accords need to be agreed to by the ESA member nations. Multi-national organizations such as the EU or ESA have no part in them.

    …a service module to provide it air and water. Europe provides that, and had only agreed to build two.

    Also correct. The first two European Service Modules (ESM) are being provided as part of the ISS program. ESA still wanted access to the ISS from 2016-2020 but didn’t want to build and launch ATVs any more, so NASA assumed ESA’s service obligations in exchange for the two ESMs. My understanding is that additional ESMs will be provided in exchange for NASA’s assuming ESA’s service obligations from 2021-2028. I’m not sure how this agreement affects that.

    Besides making Orion an international program and thus politically harder to kill (especially after NASA pulled out of ExoMars, causing quite a rift with ESA), this arrangement is also a way to hide Orion costs in the ISS budget.

  • mkent

    I’d just like to add that this is fantastic news! It nearly guarantees that the Gateway will be built. Nearly the entire expanded Gateway is now under at least initial contract: the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), the Habitat and Logistics Outpost (HALO), the Gateway Logistics Services (GLS) contract (Dragon XL), the International Habitat (I-Hab), the European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT), and the Canadarm3 robot arm.

    Only the airlock contract remains to be signed. Originally this was assigned to the Russians. Since they dropped out, I wonder if the Japanese will take up the cause. They built the mini-airlock on the ISS.

    A sustainable manned lunar program is now within reach.

  • Dick Eagleson

    In addition to the U.K., three other members of the ESA have also signed the Artemis Accords – Italy, Luxembourg and Canada.

  • Jim Davis

    I’d just like to add that this is fantastic news! It nearly guarantees that the Gateway will be built.

    It might also guarantee there will be no lunar landings. Not so fantastic.

  • mkent

    It might also guarantee there will be no lunar landings. Not so fantastic.

    How would it guarantee that? Putting in place the long-term infrastructure for sustainable lunar exploration can only help the Artemis program. It might be cancelled anyway — no telling what the Democrats will do when they take full control of the government — but it won’t be because of the Gateway.

  • john hare

    It could make Gateway into yet another uncancellable money pit. James Webb, SLS, Orion, ISS, etc, etc. Mkent, you should be aware that Jim does not comment frivolously. Even when I disagree, I assume he has a good case, having lost both sides of the same argument with him one time..

  • Jim Davis

    Putting in place the long-term infrastructure for sustainable lunar exploration can only help the Artemis program.

    You have to first make the case that the Gateway is “long-term infrastructure for sustainable lunar exploration”. You can’t just assume that this is the case.

    I think a better case can be made that the Gateway is completely orthogonal to the goal of “sustainable lunar exploration”. It will compete with Artemis, not help it. If it becomes “yet another uncancellable money pit”, as John put it, Artemis might be sacrificed to feed it.

  • Edward

    Jim Davis wrote: “I think a better case can be made that the Gateway is completely orthogonal to the goal of ‘sustainable lunar exploration’. It will compete with Artemis, not help it.

    To help understand Jim’s statement, keep in mind that Gateway is intended for two missions, lunar landings and waypoint for solar system exploration. Its location is a compromise and is not optimal for either of these missions. A three-day trip from the Earth to the Moon’s surface becomes much longer.

    As a gateway to the Moon, its orbit limits the windows of landing opportunity. For it to be more help than hinderance, its usefulness must overcome its limitations. One has to wonder whether it is worth the price.

    I believe that in the future, a space station in lunar orbit will be of great benefit to our manned lunar bases, but I have not been convinced that Gateway is that station.

  • sippin_bourbon

    So, I see both sides of the argument.

    Unless its funding is managed right, it can be a draw away from the actual landings.

    But yeah, on the other hand.. a space station around the moon… the coolness factor is awesome.

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