The Deep Space Gateway offers new opportunities for fundamental and applied scientific research. Although primarily driven by human exploration goals, the Deep Space Gateway could support research on life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy, Earth sciences, planetary sciences, or technology.
If research is to be performed on this strategic platform then it must be designed and prepared with an understanding of the capabilities that enable this research. The research opportunities will be limited to those that have limited impact on design and resource requirements. The platform will be optimised to perform the exploration enabling tasks for which it has been defined. Research enabling capabilities may then be incorporated into the system where programmatic, operational, and technical parameters allow.
For this reason, in August 2017, the European Space Agency issued a Call for Ideas to consult the science community in Europe to identify where opportunities could exist for utilisation of this new crewed platform near the Moon, and to specify the capabilities and facilities that would need to exist to enable this research to be performed.
Possible research areas
The International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) has conducted a consultation to establish opportunities related to the various destinations and missions associated with its Global Exploration Roadmap (pdf, 4.5MB).
The consultation resulted in a Science White Paper on the Scientific Opportunities Enabled by Human Exploration Beyond Low-Earth-Orbit (pdf, 2.1 MB), which includes high-level descriptions of a number of scientific areas that could benefit from human operations in lunar vicinity.
- Lunar surface science using tele-presence
- Collecting and returning planetary material
- Understanding the effects of deep space radiation and fractional gravity
- Observation post for monitoring Earth's climate
- A platform for astronomical observations
- Fundamental physics
In addition, a number of opportunistic investigation areas were identified for the cruise phase to the Moon. These include:
- Monitor lunar exosphere evolution of the whole Moon through a monthly cycle
- Quantify impact flashes through the lunar night - this is difficult from Earth since clouds get in the way
- Monitor human physiology and biomedical changes as the habitat or vehicle moves from within to outside the Earth's magnetic field (assuming humans are present)
- Install cosmic dust and micrometeorite collectors
- Target the habitat trajectory to facilitate a lunar eclipse of the Sun to study the solar corona and solar composition from the habitat, undistorted by Earth's atmosphere
- Monitor the Earth's exosphere in the far ultraviolet to estimate its radiation pressure and extension and study possible changes with solar activity