NASA recently announced plans to construct the Lunar Gateway, which is to serve as a temporary base for operations on the moon and Mars. It’s part of a comprehensive initiative, if you take NASA at its word. It’s even got some spiffy images to back it up.
Here’s the thing. The Lunar Gateway makes almost no sense for mission purposes. Mandating a scientific outpost over the moon in order to study it (and Mars, for some reason) offers no real benefits compared to an actual lunar outpost.
It would be like going to a date’s house and watching them through a window. Yeah, you might learn something about them, but nothing compared to what might happen if you actually went in their house and interacted with them directly.
When asked why not go directly to the moon, NASA prevaricates.
For a lunar base, this gateway offers nothing that a supply ship cannot offer, except that it costs astronauts the health benefits of a gravity well.
As for Mars, the laughabe idea that a Mars-bound spacecraft would stop there for fuel or supplies is akin to a Shanghai-bound jet taking off, then immediately landing to hit up a 7-Eleven for a couple of Slurpees, then getting back in the air again. Why would you launch from Earth, make a detour to the moon, park at the gateway, and then resume your trek to Mars?
You wouldn’t. This isn’t Armageddon.
I don’t think returning to the moon is a necessary step in our journey to Mars, but even if I did, a lunar outpost makes much more sense than the gateway plan. The exploration of space requires funding, and NASA doesn’t even get half of one percent of the federal budget. We shouldn’t squander it on a 7-Eleven in space.