ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Endorses Lunar Gateway

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Joint Statement

The International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) met on August 6, 2019. Its members[1] acknowledged the recent 50th anniversary of the first human steps on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission, praised the ongoing important work of the ISS, and discussed opportunities for the future of human exploration on and around the Moon and forward to Mars.  

Significant outcomes of the ISS continue to include both new scientific knowledge and technical innovation. These advancements address sustainable development on Earth and further preparations to extend human presence farther into the Solar System. More than 100 countries have utilized the space station for research or education. Furthermore, representatives noted with satisfaction that the ISS is nurturing a growing economy in low-Earth orbit research, business and services, and acknowledged new opportunities ISS partners are making available for commercial activities on the ISS enabling sustained and continued exploitation of low-Earth orbit (LEO).

Looking to exploration activities beyond LEO, the MCB members reaffirmed their continued intention to cooperate on a human outpost in the lunar vicinity – Gateway. The partners will continue to develop cooperative opportunities to explore the lunar surface – leading to the exploration of Mars. Both the Gateway and lunar surface work will serve as the proving ground for Mars.

Within a broader open architecture for human exploration, the MCB acknowledged the Gateway as a critical next step. The Gateway will support human and robotic access to the lunar surface, and build invaluable experience needed for the challenges of human missions to Mars. The unique location of the Gateway will offer a platform for important scientific discovery in a deep space environment very different from that of the ISS and help to enable lunar surface exploration. Its special orbit will also provide excellent visibility of both the Earth and the Moon’s surface for communications relay purposes. It will stimulate the development of advanced technologies, expand the emerging space economy, and continue to leverage the societal benefits of space exploration for citizens on Earth. The Gateway partnership will enable other international and commercial entities to participate in human exploration, research and technology development and will be foundational for establishing a sustained human presence around and on the Moon.

The partnership is working to develop a Gateway to enable sustainable ongoing exploration missions, including human lunar landings. NASA has updated its plans for the Utilization Module, now referred to as the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). The HALO along with the NASA Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), Space Launch System, and Orion spacecraft (including the European Space Agency (ESA)-provided European Service Module) will help enable the Artemis program’s plans for a 2024 human lunar landing mission and ensure compatibility and technical capability for the Gateway partnership. The MCB members shared the view that the Gateway will become a sustainable exploration infrastructure supporting further lunar and Mars exploration objectives when additional capabilities are provided through the Gateway partnership.

The members noted their progress regarding respective stakeholders’ approval and funding processes for providing specific elements, modules, and capabilities for the Gateway and associated benefits based on a common concept. Highlights included NASA’s selection of a contractor for the first element of the Gateway, the PPE. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan continues to seek possibilities to provide habitation functions and logistics resupply. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently launched a formal process seeking interested suppliers for Canadarm3 following the announcement in February 2019 that Canada would participate in the Gateway and contribute advanced robotics including external robotic interfaces and end-to-end external robotics operations. ESA will seek the approval of its Member States Ministers at the end of November 2019 to provide an international habitation module (I-HAB), enhanced lunar communication, refueling capability, a science airlock, and further Orion service modules. The State Space Corporation ROSCOSMOS anticipates providing a multi-purpose crew airlock module for Gateway.

The partnership will coordinate to ensure Gateway development continues in a timely manner to realize near and long-term goals, prepare for early utilization activities on Gateway, and consider opportunities for further cooperation related to lunar surface exploration – leading to the exploration of Mars.

Finally, mindful of the ambition and spirit of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, the MCB members affirmed their common hope that the next steps of human exploration will inspire the next generation and provide a sustainable path for exploration to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.


[1] representing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Government of Japan’s Ministry for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the State Space Corporation Roscosmos