Monday, April 15, 2019

US Lunar Gateway Will be Scaled Back for 2024 Moon Landing: Fed's Foolish to Depend on US for Canada's Space Program

          By Chuck Black

Without lots more money, and at least some sort of defined NASA budget outlining priorities, it is foolish to assume that the NASA led US Lunar Gateway and its Canadian built "3rd generation" Canadarm (originally scheduled for 2028) could possibly maintain the same schedule expected when Canada announced and approved its share of the funding for the program in Budget 2019.

Since then, and as outlined in the April 14th, 2019 Space News post, "NASA’s accelerated moon plans create uncertainty for international partners," US president Donald Trump's administration has announced an "about turn" on NASA plans and priorities, essentially pushing aside the Lunar Gateway program in favor of placing "US boots on the Moon" by 2024.

As outlined in the post:
NASA has yet to outline its approach to meeting the goal announced in a March 26 speech by Vice President Mike Pence of landing humans on the south pole of the moon within five years. The agency has been working internally on at least a high-level approach for doing so, and plans to start sharing details with the White House, including the Office of Management and Budget, this week in order to finalize a revised budget request that’s expected to seek several billion dollars more in fiscal year 2020 alone. 
However, in comments at the 35th Space Symposium, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency would pursue a two-phase approach that would initially emphasize speed. That approach is expected to use the Space Launch System and Orion, lunar landers and some version of a lunar Gateway.
But the Lunar Gateway is expected to be scaled down dramatically from earlier plans. According to the post:
Some concepts under consideration require only the Power and Propulsion Element, which NASA is in the process of procuring, along with a docking node of some kind that could also serve as a habitation module.
Publicly, potential Gateway partners have said little about how NASA’s accelerated approach would affect their ability or willingness to participate. During an April 10 panel session here on exploration, officials from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency largely avoided direct discussion of what NASA’s new plans would mean for international contributions to the Gateway or other elements of the exploration architecture.
Expect no public comments from CSA and the other potential Gateway partners until NASA's budget is finalized, sometime later this year.

When NASA's plan is finally rolled out, it is almost certain that the Justin Trudeau Liberal government and its Canadian Space Agency (CSA) bureaucracy will need to come up with a new plan for the $1.95Bln CDN allocated over the next 24 years as Canada's contribution to the Lunar Gateway.

The Canadian government should certainly have known by now that there are better things to do than to tie our space future to an incomplete plan developed by an external space power, even if its the US.

At the very least, none of the other partners were stupid enough to have signed on to the deal yet. They were waiting for the plan to stabilize so that they could begin generating their own plans to contribute within the bigger program

But Canada didn't. We pushed ahead and committed to funding our share of a proposal which is in the midst of being seriously changed.

So here we are. Hung out to dry and waving in the breeze. Bugger!
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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