NASA's Lunar Gateway space station design process is beginning to take shape: The agency has announced five new prototypes that it plans to test on the ground.
These habitats aren't actually designs to use at the moon, but are more for NASA to learn about the interfaces, requirements and design standards for a future habitat module for U.S. astronauts, the agency said. Gateway would provide an orbiting base around the moon from which astronauts could descend to the lunar surface or go farther into space.
"These tests were formulated so that we can do a side-by-side comparison of very different and innovative concepts from U.S. industry," Marshall Smith, who leads human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a NASA statement. "While we won't dictate a specific design when we procure the U.S. habitat, we will enter the procurement phase with far less risk because of the knowledge we gain from these tests."
This news comes just weeks after NASA announced that, following a directive from the Trump administration, it would aim to land astronauts on the moon by 2024. NASA is planning the Gateway to be ready in the 2020s for human habitation.
Scroll through the five companies' concepts below, plus a concept study from the company NanoRacks:
- NASA Plans to Build a Moon-Orbiting Space Station: Here's What You Should Know
- Take a Look Inside Lockheed Martin's Proposed Lunar 'Gateway' Habitat for Astronauts
- Mars Samples May Come to Earth via NASA's Deep Space Gateway