# How many stages (approximately) will likely be used to get NASA astronauts to the Moon's south pole and safely back to Earth?

UPDATE: See Space News' NASA tweaks call for lunar lander concepts which links to:

The question Has NASA “gone south”? Why are astronauts needed to explore the Moon's south pole? and its answers highlight the recent US executive branch's indeterminately-funded mandate.

As far as I understand, the gateway will be in the loop and a stop-over for the astronauts, and the reason I think so is that getting to the moon is the raison d'être for the gateway, so it would be awkward if it wasn't used. Or, to quote someone famous; "I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be (used)."

The exact propulsive scenario is still of course uncertain, especially the trip between the gateway and the Moon, but is it possible to estimate how many stages of propulsion the astronauts will experience on the round trip? How does the total number of propulsive stages compare to the Apollo missions?

In the Ars Technica's Here’s why NASA’s audacious return to the Moon just might work the subsection What hardware are they planning to use? outlines a notional scenario. This might possibly be useful as an example "notional" scenario from which to make an estimate.

Question: In total, roughly how many stages will likely be used to get NASA astronauts to the Moon's south pole and safely back to Earth?

One? Two? Four? Eight?

See Ars Technica's in-depth article How much will the Moon plan cost? We should know in two weeks

From NASASpaceflight.com's NASA Launch Services Program outlines the alternative launcher review for EM-1, click for larger size:

• What do you mean by stages? Stages of space craft or stages of travel? I initially thought the question was asking how may space craft stages would be required, then I thought maybe it's stages of travel, such as: (1) Launch, (2) Earth orbit, (3) Travel to the Lunar Gateway, (4) Gateway stay, (5) Lunar decent, (6) Lunar exploration, (7) Ascent to the Gateway, (8) Gateway stay, (9) Return to Earth orbit, (10) Descent to Earth.
– Fred
Oct 23, 2021 at 15:49
• @Fred I see what you mean, there can be some ambiguity here. I meant it like the parts of the rocket we call stages; 1st stage, 2nd stage, where "SECO" is the cut-off of the second stage's engine for example. The sentence "How does the total number of propulsive stages compare to the Apollo missions?" had meant to clarify that. I guess I would have used "phases of travel" for those things you've enumerated.
– uhoh
Oct 23, 2021 at 21:51