Artist's illustration of the Gateway. Photo: NASA

Two experiments designed to monitor the space environment will eventually orbit the Moon on NASA's small Gateway space station.

Why it matters: The experiments will keep an eye on the radiation environment in lunar orbit in order to help scientists learn how to keep astronauts safe as they explore deep space.

  • “Our Sun and the environment around it is very dynamic. Not only will we learn more about our space environment, but we'll also learn how to improve forecasting space weather," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said in a statement.

Details: One of the instruments, built by the European Space Agency, will monitor radiation from the Gateway, giving people back on Earth a better sense of how much exposure astronauts might have in lunar orbit.

  • NASA's space weather Gateway experiment will keep an eye on solar particles and the solar wind to aid in predicting space weather that can harm people and satellites in orbit.

Yes, but: It's not yet clear when exactly the Gateway will be orbiting the Moon.

  • NASA's head of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, told the space agency's Advisory Council that the Gateway has been taken off the "critical path" for NASA's first Artemis Moon mission in 2024, according to SpaceNews.
  • Instead, the agency will reportedly focus on getting the Gateway up and running by 2026 without using it for the first landing in 2024.
  • “By taking Gateway out of the critical path for the lunar landing in ’24, I believe what we have done is create a far better Gateway program,” Loverro said, per SpaceNews.

Go deeper: Speeding up spacecraft development

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