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NASA Will Test 5 Habitat Designs for Its Lunar Gateway Space Station

Boeing is one of five companies testing a prototype habitation module on Earth for NASA's Lunar Gateway.
Boeing is one of five companies testing a prototype habitation module on Earth for NASA's Lunar Gateway. (Image credit: Boeing)

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

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.