The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on October 27 this year between NASA and ESA saw the two entities partner on the Lunar Gateway project. Though both sides echoed the agreement to partner on the Lunar Gateway, they both have tasks ahead of them to launch global collaboration on the more extensive Artemis program of human lunar exploration.
The MOU outlines guidelines that extend the pre-existing interstate arrangement for the International Space Station to the Gateway, a human-tended outpost orbiting the moon, which is tasked with supporting lunar surface crewed missions. According to Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, the agreement between the two agencies uses the existing cooperation, which was started by the International Space Station. He claimed that the Gateway would help expand NASA’s collaboration with other transnational partners like ESA and, at the same time, guaranteeing the Artemis program offers a harmless and supportable survey of the moon.
The contract underlines the roles played by each agency with ESA tasked with the provision for the Gateway with a habitation module, I-Hab, and a telecommunication and refilling component, the European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunication (ESPIRIT). ESA is also tasked with the provision of two more provision components for the Orion spaceship. With the contributions that have been planned, ESA was able to secure initial funds for its Gateway contributions at its Space19+ ministerial meeting in November 2019 and awarded contacts for I-Hab and ESPIRIT on October 14. On the other hand, NASA will offer provision openings for European cosmonauts to travel to the Gateway.
Though during the MOU announcement, there was no mentioning of the number of European crew who would soar to the Gateway, NASA speaker Gina Anderson on October 28, stated that the terms of agreement offer three crew chances to the Gateway. According to her, the deal only highlighted the airlifts to the Gateway and not the expeditions to the lunar surface and that the dates and mission specifics would be confirmed at a later date. Other countries like Canada and Japan have both aired their intentions to contribute to the Gateway project through agreements between the two countries, and NASA is yet to be completed. Canada announced its role on the project to build a robotic arm system, the Canadaarm3, for the project. On the other hand, Japan signed up a compliant contract with NASA that highlighted its role in the human survey, comprising assistance to the Gateway.
Though ESA has engaged the MOU, some of its associate states can yet append their signatures on the Artemis Accords. Those to have signed are Italy, Luxembourg, and the UK and later joined by Canada, Japan, Australia, and the UAE.