The Deep Space Gateway Just Keeps Getting Better!

Picture of the Perseid Meteor Shower of 2015.

More Deep Space Gateway! What were you expecting? In February 2018, Researchers at NASA from the NASA Johnson Space Center have started thinking about even more applications of the Deep Space Gateway. The next proposed addition is to characterize comets and asteroids though the collection of cosmic dust in the space between the Earth and the Moon (cislunar). Every year the earth moves through debris streams of dust and small particles from comets and asteroids crossing into Earth’s orbit. These debris areas create what we commonly call meteor showers. By using a device installed on the DSG, we could figure out the composition of a dozen or more comets and asteroids without leaving the space around our moon. The Deep Space Gateway is a perfect fit for this experiment because cosmic dust samples are not very large, and its permanent orbit allows for long collection periods. The current working name for the device is the Dust Analyzer.

The team gave both a science description and instrument operation for the device. Using the Dust Analyzer, the researchers will be able to analyze the elemental and potentially isotopic composition of comets and asteroids. Since we can already identify the parent object of many areas of cosmic dust, measuring the composition of these areas will give us detailed information about a large number of the asteroids in cislunar space. The researchers said that the experiment will give light to two things. The first is that the data will help provide information on the origins of never before researched asteroids. Also, the results will increase the scientific value of NASA’s Cosmic Dust collection by mapping its contents to individual comets and asteroids. Even the experimental process used by the Dust Analyzer is cool! The Analyzer would create dust debris that hits it at high velocity and that dust would be converted into ionized gas for analysis! There’s a lot of fascinating ideas coming from the Deep Space Gateway, so I can’t wait to see which ideas are presented next and what actually gets implemented!




Fries, M., Fisher, K. 2018. Direct Characterization of Comets and Asteroids via Cosmic Dust Analysis from the Deep Space Gateway. NASA Technical Reports Server. 20180002181.

Storm Chasers: SPACE EDITION

View of a Cyclone from Space.

The Deep Space Gateway is back and better than ever! On February 28th Timothy Lang, a Research Aerospace Technologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, gave a talk a about The Deep Space Gateway Lightning Mapper (DLM) at a Deep Space Gateway Concept Science Workshop in Denver, Colorado. Lang introduced the concept of the Lightning Mapper, what it will do, and why it is important to be incorporated on the Deep Space Gateway. The Deep Space Gateway Lighting Mapper will be used to help track global change and thunderstorm processes by looking at high latitude lightning. It is planned to combine data from the sampling of individual thunderstorms with observations of the lightning at high latitudes. High latitudes are the areas greater than 50 degrees and occur nearer to the north and south poles of the Earth. Some questions the scientists want to answer are, “How is global change affecting thunderstorm patterns?” and “How do high-latitude thunderstorms differ from low-latitude?”

The Deep Space Gateway’s orbit provides a continuous view of the high latitudes of Earth and makes it the best place to monitor lightning. These regions are not well covered by current lighting mappers and other types of orbits have many drawbacks that prevent continuous coverage. Lang continued to pitch the project in the rest of his presentation. He highlighted the fact that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has declared lightning an essential climate variable that can provide important information about our ozone and atmospheric precipitation. Also, 75% of wildfires in high latitudes are caused by lightning, so many governmental departments are interested in becoming partners in the effort. In other words, we hope he gets the money!


Lang, T., R. J. Blakeslee, D. J., Blakeslee, R.J., Cecil, D.J., Christian, H.J., Gatlin, P.N., Goodman, S.J., Koshak, W.A., Petersen, W.A., Quick, M. and Schultz, C.J. 2018. The Deep Space Gateway Lighting Mapper (DLM) – Monitoring Global Change and Thunderstorm Processes Through Observations of Earth’s High-Latitude Lighting from Cis-Lunar Orbit. NASA Technical Reports Server. 20180001589.

The Race to Mars: The Ins and Outs of How it Will Happen via the Deep Space Gateway

Picture of the Red Planet

For many, the fantasy of going to Mars will soon become a reality. In 2017, Michelle Rucker and John Connolly of the Mars Study Capability Team at NASA gave a PowerPoint presentation on the specifics of just how humans will get to Mars. A key aspect of this mission will be the Deep Space Gateway (More information on DSG can be found in my blog post from last week!). As a quick refresher, the Deep Space Gateway is a space station/area around the moon that will allow people to inhabit the space between the Earth and the Moon (cislunar) and will aid in transporting astronauts to Mars.

The team began their presentation by discussing how the Mars mission fits into the vision for coordinated human and robotic exploration of our solar system. This vision is entitled the Global Exploration Roadmap and one of its main goals is to explore and have astronauts live on Mars and in space. The pair of researchers highlighted the Deep Space Gateway as a way to “provide a convenient assembly, checkout, and refurbishment location to enable Mars missions”. After explaining the role of the Deep Space Gateway (DSG), the team went into the specifics of the phases of the project and the parts of the Mars mission.

After the set up and construction of the DSG and its components (Phase 1), Phase 2 begins with a 180 day Deep Space Transport (DST) checkout and a one year shakedown cruise. During this cruise, the Deep Space Gateway remains in orbit and is supplied with astronauts and cargo by the Orion capsule. At the same time, the DST takes a path that encircles the moon to simulate the deep space trip to Mars.  This piece is critical, as the DST will be the vessel that actually takes astronauts to Mars.

Phase 3 consists of our first mission to Mars via the DST! Phase 3 is only a “fly by.” The DST enters Mars orbit without interaction between humans and the Mars surface. This will prove our technical ability to travel all the way to Mars from Earth.  The most interesting things occur in Phase 4, when the first humans will be landing on Mars. The first three missions of Phase 4 will revisit the same landing site in order to create a field station on the Mars surface. The Deep Space Gateway will also play an important role, as it will provide an easy access point in order to make any necessary repairs to the Mars mission.

OPINION: This project has been going for a LONG time, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go, and we won’t see anyone standing on Mars until the 2030’s. It’s incredible to think that all of this progress has been made, but we are still so far away. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done, but I’ll be happy and very interested to see where NASA goes with this.


Rucker, M., Connolly, J. 2017. Deep Space Gateway – Enabling Missions to Mars. NASA Technical Reports Server: JSC-E-DAA-TN49931.

NASA’s NextSTEP into Space? A Real Life Deep Space Station? What is this Star Trek?

Hubble Spies a Loopy Galaxy

Ever wanted to live in Space? Well, that dream might be closer than you think. In 2018, researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center released an update paper on the progress of NextSTEP Phase 2. What’s NextSTEP, you ask? It stands for NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships program. This program is a public-private partnership that wants to seek commercial development of deep space exploration, such as extensive human spaceflight missions. The first phase of NextSTEP kicked off in 2014, when NASA made the announcement of plans to inhabit the area of space between the earth and the orbit of the moon (cislunar). These plans were created to leverage the commercialization of low earth orbit and will be part of the Deep Space Gate Way. The Deep Space Gateway is a space station planned by NASA for construction in the 2020s (stay tuned to our blog for more information on the Deep Space Gateway).

In 2016, NextSTEP Phase 2 selected five commercial companies to start creating ground prototypes. To ensure that these prototypes can be successful, a test team of NASA engineers has been developing evaluation criteria since 2008. Also known as the ground test protocol, these evaluation criteria are the most important part of Phase 2 of the NextSTEP program. The protocol was created by using both a top-down and bottom-up approach. The top-down approach was based on the exploration goals from the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), and the flight objectives from the NASA Future Capabilities Team (FCT), Evolvable Mars Campaign (EMC) and the Human Health and Performance (HH&P) teams. The bottom-up approach was written by the same set of organizations but included all of the smaller details of the mission from logistics to avionics, and Mission Control Center operations. After completion, the teams decided that the ground tests will be evaluated using inspection, demonstration, analysis, subsystem standalone testing, and human in the loop (HITL) testing. Finally, the team will recommend the best habitation platform to advance to stage 3!

OPINION: As I understand it, aspects of the Deep Space Gateway are going to be extremely helpful for other missions including travel to Mars and further into the galaxy. The DSG reminds me of Yorktown Station from Star Trek Beyond. However, our Deep Space Gateway will spend more time in Earth’s orbit then floating around in space with Starfleet like the fictional Yorktown. It’s going to be interesting to see just how far we can take this program.


Beaton, K. H., Chappell, S. P., Bekdash, O. S., Gernhardt, M. L. 2018. Development of a Ground Test and Analysis Protocol to Support NASA’s NextSTEP Phase 2 Habitation Concepts. NASA Technical Reports Sever: JSC-CN-39874.