Retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts doesn’t believe that the space agency’s plan to build a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will truly facilitate future space explorations.
In fact, the former astronaut is convinced that the lunar gateway will actually get in the way of the prospective manned missions to the moon and, even farther away, to Mars, reports Space News.
Invited as a panelist alongside two other former astronauts, Eileen Collins and Scott Parazynski, Virst voiced his opinion at the National Space Council meeting held in Washington on June 18.
According to the news outlet, the retired spaceman made a case against the building of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway — which, in his opinion, will abate human spaceflight.
“Gateway will only slow us down, taking time and precious dollars away from the goal of returning to the lunar surface and eventually flying to Mars,” Virts said at the meeting.
The former astronaut argued that the idea to build a lunar gateway while we still have a functioning International Space Station (ISS) doesn’t represent an effective next step in moving along the plans to explore our solar system.
“It essentially calls for building another orbital space station, a skill my colleagues and I have already demonstrated on the ISS,” Virts pointed out.
Hosted in the East Room of the White House, the astronaut panel was called to discuss NASA’s strategies for implementing the Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1), which directs the space agency to send astronauts back to the moon.
Signed by President Donald Trump on December 11, 2017, SPD-1 instructs NASA to return to the moon and lay the groundwork that will eventually take humanity on our first trip to Mars.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, the space agency has decided on building a crewed space facility in the moon’s orbit, which will serve as a staging area for future lunar manned missions.
NASA plans to begin work on the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway next year and expects to have it ready for launch in 2022.
However, Virts conveyed that a more optimal choice would be the implementation of a space program modeled after the Apollo missions, with the ISS assuming the role of the Mercury project.
“Now is the time to establish a program that will fill the role of Gemini, developing and testing the technologies that we will need to return to the lunar surface. Unfortunately, the recently proposed Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway does not fill that role of Gemini.”
Meanwhile, NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine thinks highly of the lunar gateway project and advocates that the future space station will open our access “to more parts of the moon than ever before,” providing a sustainable outpost for long-term manned missions to Earth’s natural satellite.