NASA’s Gateway is an orbital outpost that will support astronauts on the Moon. In the future it will be the link between Earth and Mars. At first glance Gateway resembles the International Space Station, but there are a few key differences.
Comparison of Gateway and the ISS
The I.S.S. is designed for astronauts to live on it for months to a year. Gateway isn’t designed for astronauts to live for long durations on it, but to support astronauts who are performing long duration missions on another planet. Astronauts will launch from Earth to Gateway, then a lunar lander will carry them to the lunar surface.
Once on the moon Astronauts will need deliveries of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, supplies, and information to carry out their exploration of the lunar surface. NASA has contracted SpaceX’s dragon capsule to deliver cargo to gateway, that will then be transported to astronauts via a lander. You can imagine astronauts collecting samples of moon rocks, water, and ice crystals, and storing them on Gateway for their return to Earth.
Illustration of the SpaceX Dragon XL deploying from the Falcon Heavy’s second stage in HEO on its way to the Gateway in lunar orbit. Credit: SpaceX
As astronauts, rovers, and robots travel deeper into space, Gateway will become an essential place to refuel, resupply, and communicate with Earth. Think of it as your only gas station stop on a long road trip.
Amani Garvin is an aerospace engineer, astrophysicist, and aspiring astronaut from East Orange, New Jersey. Her work ranges from studying black holes to tracking greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.
Currently Amani works at SpaceX on the Dragon Capsule. She is the Creative Director for Astronaut.com where she shares stories of Earth, Mars & Space.