“We are very much aggressively going after the development and deployment of the Gateway,” Crusan said at a late August meeting of NASA’s Advisory Council. “Meaning very fast development schedules. I don’t think we should change that. I think we should be aggressive on these things and set goals and tailoring our acquisition processes so that we can get to the quickness and pace that we’d like to get to.”
This type of language signals that, while NASA aspires to the stated launch dates, if anything goes wrong they probably can’t hold to them. And in big aerospace development programs, things invariably go wrong. Reasonably, it seems unlikely that the Gateway in its original configuration, with a large habitat module and a separate airlock, would be completed much before 2030.
Luckily for Nicole Mann, a talented member of NASA’s 2013 class of astronauts who might be chosen for one of the first missions into deep space, she has other things to do in the meantime. Recently, NASA selected her to fly on the maiden flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station in 2019. Perhaps one day, she will visit another station, much farther from Earth.
Or, depending on how the space policy battles in Washington, DC, play out, perhaps not.