Since the days of the Apollo Mission, mankind has rarely traveled beyond low Earth orbit. This stagnation has led to lost opportunities to explore our Moon, and more importantly, a gateway to other worlds within the Solar System. However, that may change in the coming years with the NASA mission to build a Deep Space Gateway station in the Moon’s orbit. What would this mean for space exploration? Not only would this provide a relay point for deep space missions, it could be the catalyst that could one day lead to the formation of a Moon colony.
To accomplish this goal, several steps need to be completed before the Deep Space Gateway can be accomplished. For one thing, NASA must continue to build, and launch, the SLS rocket; alongside the Orion capsule. These two technologies, alongside current research at the ISS, would be the forerunners for the Deep Space Gateway. However, the NASA could soon have some competition in the coming years in the race to colonize the Moon.
China, a rising economic power to rival the United States, has been preparing for an eventual Moon Colony in the coming years. A joint venture, with the European Space Agency, was announced in 2017 to help make this goal a reality. China has been heavily invested in its space program, with its first manned mission in space in 2003. Coupled with the fact that China has been creating simulated Moon test environments goes to show how committed they are to making a Moon Colony a reality. Finally, China hopes to conduct a mission to Mars by 2020, a highly ambitious goal for the rising star.
What is clear is that the United States now has what it has been missing since the fall of the Soviet Union, a direct competitor to make history in space. Could this healthy competition be the motivation that Americans need to invest in NASA once again? The Trump Administration seems to think so! In the 2019 Presidential Budget Request, President Trump calls for a sunset for NASA’s investment in the ISS to focus more of our efforts on a Moon mission. The goal is to have the ISS handed over for private companies to manage the stations maintenance costs. Finally, with the rising tensions in a trade war with China, the United States could reach a pivotal moment where we would test our might against an economic adversary well equipped to give us a run for our money.
To conclude, the mission to build a Moon Colony is becoming more of a reality with each passing day. The United States shift in focus towards manned space flights again could be the beneficial catalyst we need to make this dream a reality. Not to mention, China would be a rival that could inspire lawmakers to continue investments into NASA. I am hopeful that these next few years will bring out the best of Americans who have been inspired by space travel. One day, we could look back at this moment as the key junction that jettisoned mankind’s technological capacity to reach for the stars.
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