NASA offers details on new lunar surface sustainability concept

NASA is planning to send astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024. If the mission carries on as planned, it will be the first time since the '60s humans have walked on the surface of another planetary body. Before humans can go to the moon in 2024, infrastructure to support a long-term sustainable presence has to be put in place. The Artemis program will allow mankind to explore for the moon like never before and help to prepare for a future crewed mission to Mars.

NASA says the Artemis moon mission will be where it demonstrates key elements needed for the first human mission to Mars. On the surface of the moon, the core element of the mission will be mobility to allow astronauts to explore the moon and conduct more science experiments. Astronauts would use a lunar terrain vehicle to transport themselves around the landing zone. A habitable mobility platform will allow crews to take trips across the moon lasting up to 45 days.

The mission also includes a lunar foundation surface habitat that would house up to four people for shorter surface days. While on the surface of the moon, with developing technology for resource utilization and power systems. Rovers for the mission would also have instruments that generate information on the availability and extraction of resources such as oxygen and water.

Finding ways to extract oxygen and water can enable the production of fuel, drinking water, and/or oxygen from local materials. Being able to create those materials would enable sustainable service operations and reduce supply needs from Earth. The plan also calls for a Gateway in lunar orbit. That orbiting outpost will serve as a command-and-control center for surface expeditions as well as an office and home for astronauts.

NASA has a plan that would see the lunar Gateway habitation capabilities and related life-support systems enhanced over time. The overall goal is to test capabilities around the moon for long-term deep-space missions. The space agency specifically envisions a four-person crew traveling to the Gateway orbiting the moon and living on the outpost for months to simulate the outbound trip and return trip to and from Mars.