Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has won a contract from the Italian space agency (ASI) to conduct a feasibility study of 16 design concepts to support a human presence on the Moon. ASI's initiative is part of a strategic partnership with NASA within the scope of the ARTEMIS program for the human exploration of the Moon, including both lunar orbit and lunar surface.
In particular, the studies will be focusing on the Shelter, a pressurized lunar surface module to be used by astronauts in an emergency and also as a starting point for surface exploration, as well as on a lunar telecommunications system to facilitate communications between the lunar base, the Lunar Gateway space station and Earth.
Lunar Data Center
Other aspects to be studied include pressurized surface modules such as a lunar laboratory for scientific experiments, a new-generation pressurized observation dome on Gateway and a habitation module for astronauts. Transport systems will be considered as well, to help astronauts explore the lunar surface or transport equipment to Gateway and the lunar surface, and even an automated rover to transport raw materials. Infrastructures needed for the future lunar base include a Lunar Data Center and a power generation and distribution facility.
The Artemis program will be implemented in three phases: Artemis 1, an unmanned flight to test the launch system and Orion spacecraft; Artemis 2, Orion's first manned flight; and Artemis 3, to put astronauts on the Moon in 2024. The program is designed to install sustainable structures on the Moon and in lunar orbit to support further human exploration of the surface and conduct scientific studies. The Lunar Gateway will be a key part of the program, since it will be used as an outpost for astronauts on their way to the Moon, and as a laboratory for scientific research, thus supporting the development of sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.