NASA’s Artemis Plan to Launch Air Cargo 250,000 Miles Straight to the Moon

By Erin Avant, Position:Global

There is a $7 billion project at NASA that will change the face of modern logistics, the secret details of which are sequestered with a selection evaluation board (SEB) as they determine the most visionary proposal to launch a complete cargo renaissance in space. The Gateway Logistics Element is a spaceship in lunar orbit that will act as a dock for the spacecraft that will arrive from Earth, the landers that will descend to the lunar surface, and the copious amounts of fuel, supplies, and food required to survive in – space. The key to success is a quantum leap in air cargo logistics.

Details on the proposals being entertained are scant. We do know the project will need to include building materials, supplies, and fuel transportation to keep the project moving forward without transportation delays, but there is no information on who submitted a proposal, whether they’re individual private corporations or partnerships of key players, logistics companies or aerospace engineers. The possibilities of the proposals are endless and staggering and NASA wants to drive innovation, hand in hand with the private sector to turn the expertise of air cargo into space cargo. To make this happen, business will have to be done differently, fearlessly.

Imagine, if you will, the logistics power of FedEx combined with the aerospace knowledge of Boeing, or the fulfillment sense of Amazon with the Space X experience, all brought together with other pioneers to build and supply the first lunar orbiting basecamp, the first lunar surface habitations and the first science and technology research center located 250,000 miles in the sky. A project of that measure will be a boon to not just the local area where planning and launch will take place, but it’s a quantum leap to translate that supply chain up into the stars. This is the commercialization of cargo logistics into deep space.

Mark Wiese, NASA Kennedy Space Center Gateway Logistics Element Manager and a keynote speaker of the AirCargo 2020 Conference, will unpack the agency’s plan for the commercial supply chain in deep space that will enable an interplanetary economy and support the Artemis Lunar Exploration plan. Marks enthusiasm is infectious and he easily explains the micro and macro logistics of a project like the Artemis Gateway Logistics Element.

As described by Wiese, “NASA drives innovation by expanding the envelope of how we live and work in extreme environments, unlocking new economies here on Earth.”

Aerospace engineering and deep space logistics aren’t the only industries that stand to benefit from a project of this magnitude. Local and regional logistics, cargo, and transportation services will be paramount in achieving this grand vision. While the vision itself is grand, the economic impact of an international collaboration between engineers, logisticians, scientists and the myriad other parties needed to accomplish an interplanetary supply chain, is almost incalculable.

Florida’s Space Coast — based around Kennedy Space Center — took a big hit in 2011 with the cessation of the space shuttle program. While the start of the Gateway Logistics Element project will see more economic benefits to the region, the eventual goal of a lunar hub will have a global logistics footprint as nations work to supply the station with cargo for their scientists, and others sending supplies into space. This project is not just the launch of a lunar orbit sustainable and expandable spacecraft; it’s the launch of a new logistics market. The technology required, the supplies, the global partnerships and collaboration will open an entire orbit-based economy. “Launching deep space logistics missions from the Kennedy Space Center, the world’s premiere commercial spaceport, is the catalyst for disrupting how we move cargo around the globe,” said Wiese.

The project will focus on both the sustainability of space exploration, including the need to provide enough food for explorers, remove waste, and reduce the trips and transit required to stock, restock and return cargo back to Earth; and ensure that spacecraft and architecture are reusable to go to Mars in the next phase. For now, the goal is to dock spacecraft with the Gateway in lunar orbit and use moon landers to ferry cargo down to the moon’s surface. The building, living and experimenting that can be done on the lunar surface will be crucial for later expeditions to push even deeper in space onto Mars and eventually beyond. The moon is where we have to go to learn and test a path to keep moving forward, 250 million more miles on to Mars.

While this may sound like the sort of proposal that would take years to develop, the proposals were announced and submitted just over a 60-day period that stretched from August 16, 2019 to October 16, 2019 and the committee expects to have the selection process complete by the end of this year. The return to the moon is planned for November of 2020 when Artemis I, an unmanned mission, will orbit the moon for six to twenty days before returning to Earth by splashing down into the Pacific. This unmanned flight will be the first in a series leading to the return of humans to the lunar surface that is expected for 2024 with the first female boot step, and eventually to Mars.

NASA Article