NASA will be working off a slightly larger budget this year, and it seems the space agency might soon pave the way for a few way stations around the moon.
Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace knows a thing or two about getting stuff in space. His company created the inflatable habitat module currently being tested on the International Space Station. Bigelow said he believes we could have private space stations orbiting the moon as early as 2020 ... if the government makes it a priority and continues to push for innovation in that sector. But, if everything fell into place, Bigelow told Space he believes it could happen.
To that end, Bigelow Aerospace is already developing its own potential lunar space station in the form of a larger inflatable habitat that could be used by space explorers for future moon or Mars missions. The design is three times the size of the modules on the ISS. Bigelow has also teamed up with Boeing and Lockheed Martin to potentially launch the habitat into orbit in 2020. The goal would be to get the habitat, dubbed the BA-330, into lunar orbit to serve as a "gateway" for lunar missions.
As for getting people there, SpaceX is already planning to send a team of private astronauts to orbit the moon in 2018, so if that mission succeeds, the company will have proven the capabilities of actually getting a crew that far from Earth.