Current NASA designs for a “platform” at an Earth-Moon
Lagrange point have evolved somewhat from slightly older
designs like this.
(courtesy: M. Raftery (Boeing Corp.))

A glimpse at a gateway

by Jeff Foust
Monday, November 12, 2012

Last week’s election in the United States also brought with it the end of at least a degree of uncertainty about the nation’s space policy. The reelection of President Obama suggests a continuation of the policies laid out in his first term, including development of commercial crew transportation systems to service the International Space Station (ISS) and vehicles to support deep space exploration, including a mission to a near Earth asteroid in 2025 and Mars in the mid-2030s.

Members of Congress who have also been outspoken on space issues, like Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), also won reelection, maintaining the current balance of power with the White House. (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who worked closely with Nelson on space issues, is retiring and did not run for reelection.) Congress, in fact, will be back this week for a “lame duck” post-election session that includes some space issues like launch indemnification and export control reform (see “A space policy to-do list for after the election”, The Space Review, October 15, 2012), as well as broader budget issues—such as the threat of “sequestration” that, if it goes into effect in January, would slash NASA’s budget by more than eight percent—with implications for space policy.

However, some question whether a second-term Obama Administration would, in fact, simply continue the same approach to human space exploration that the president laid out in 2010. Last week, SPACE.com reported that NASA is considering the development of an outpost in cislunar space, at one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points. Longtime space policy expert John Logsdon suggested in the article that those plans likely have already been cleared by the Obama Administration and that “they’re holding off announcing that until after the election.”

That report got plenty of attention, although some of the details were lost or distorted in the coverage of that article. However, it’s not the first time word has leaked out regarding such a mission concept. In September, the Orlando Sentinel reported NASA was studying designs for such an outpost and had even briefed White House officials about it. Neither the White House nor NASA would comment on the plans, other than a NASA spokesman saying the agency was studying “many options” for future human exploration.

Read more: The Space Review: A glimpse at a gateway.

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