EM-2: Orion crew to spend up to four days in Lunar Orbit

October 30th, 2012 by Chris Bergin

he first crewed mission of NASA’s Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) exploration era will send a crew of four on a short vacation into Lunar orbit in 2021. Exploration Mission -2 (EM-2) will be a key test of Orion’s life support systems, following a baseline path laid out by EM-1, the uncrewed debut of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion duo.

SLS/Orion:

With NASA’s exploration plan still being worked – and likely to remain as such due to the uncertainty relating to the Presidential election process – even these two opening missions of the new Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) are subject to change.

However, that may be a blessing in disguise, with the current opening salvo of NASA’s return to BEO exploration providing an uninspiring, highly expensive and near-unworkable approach of launching an uncrewed Lunar mission in 2017, prior to employing the entire SLS/Orion ground support workforce to be removed from a launch processing stance for several years, ahead of repeating the initial mission, this time with a crew.

That unattractive approach is partly to do with budget-restrictions, but also because NASA’s leadership continues to be pushed and pulled between opposing political forces that both saved the HLV plan from being mothballed under the FY11 budget proposal, then heavily delayed the actual go-ahead for SLS via additional trade studies.

This leaves a scenario where NASA’s official line continues to lack any real expansion on the goals of a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) mission in the 2025 time-frame, followed by a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.

However, behind the scenes, more interesting information is available, via what is known as the Design Reference Mission (DRM) work, showing a large amount of evaluation into missions that include a return to the surface of the Moon, in tandem with the continued rise in stock for constructing an Exploration Gateway at the ISS, ahead of its placement at EML-2.

Read more: EM-2: Orion crew to spend up to four days in Lunar Orbit | NASA Space Flight.

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