NASA has awarded a $187 million contract to a subsidiary owned by Northrop Grumman Space to design a habitation and logistics outpost (HALO) where astronauts involved in the exploration of the Moon will stay. According to an agency press release posted on its website, the space hotel, which NASA described as a “small studio apartment”, will be part of a so-called Gateway and help build a sustainable presence on the Moon.
"This contract award is another significant milestone in our plan to build robust and sustainable lunar operations. The Gateway is a key component of NASA’s long-term Artemis architecture and the HALO capability furthers our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for future human missions to Mars", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
The Gateway NASA is referring to is a mini-space station, currently in development, which will orbit the Moon and act as a staging post for travel to Earth's satellite. The agency said HALO will be pressurised living quarters, where astronauts will spend time while visiting the Gateway. The station will help humanity in other space missions, including to Mars.
"This is very small, it's not the ISS. It's something very do-able and we will work with industry to make sure we move that along very fast. If we're going to go to Mars it's a long trip. Gateway helps us figure out how to do that. This helps us take that next step", said Mark Wiese, Gateway's logistics element manager.
NASA said it plans to launch the first elements of the Gateway – HALO and the Power and Propulsion Element(PPE) in 2023, this will be a year before the planned manned mission to the Moon, which will see US astronauts return to Earth’s satellite for the first time since 1972. Together with its partners, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Japan Space Exploration Agency as well as private companies, NASA plans to establish a permanent presence on the Moon.