NASA plans to land astronauts on the Moon for the first time since 1972, including the first woman to go to the Moon’s surface in the next few years. Artemis program could put humans back on the Moon’s surface as soon as 2025. It is modeled after the Apollo program.
The Artemis program is named after Artemis, the Greek moon goddess. It was made so that NASA and other space agencies could send multiple missions to the Moon and get a new foothold in space. NASA officials also hope that Artemis will be the first step toward bigger goals in space, such as a permanent human presence on and ultimately going to Mars.
Artemis program is highly ambitious. It is hoped that it will be the first step towards bigger goals, such as putting people on the Moon all the time and going to Mars. However, there are some concerns about its feasibility. There are also some questions about how much money will be available to continue the program. In the meantime, Artemis is an essential step in future space exploration.
The journey back to the Moon is complicated and challenging, but it also has many great opportunities to explore. Below is a summary of NASA’s plan for going back to the Moon’s surface, the technology that would be needed, and what we know about who might be chosen to go on the trip.
First, NASA must find a way to get astronauts to the Moon. There may be many ways to do this, but we know that using a rocket to launch a spacecraft is the most reliable method. NASA thinks the best option for developing a rocket and spacecraft that launches people into space is to outsource that job to SpaceX. At the same time, NASA, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin will focus on the rocket and unmanned spacecraft to launch equipment into space.
Finally, the astronauts must reach the Moon’s surface once launched into space. NASA needs to use a landing vehicle or a spacecraft to get astronauts down to the surface of the Moon.
Once the astronauts are on the Moon’s surface, NASA will need to find a way to get them back home. Although there may be many options for returning home, the best option is using a spacecraft.
So, if we put all of this together, NASA plans to use a spacecraft to get to the Moon, use a landing vehicle to get down to the Moon’s surface, and use a rocket called a space shuttle to get back home. NASA thinks this is the best way to return to the Moon and explore all of its incredible opportunities.
A detailed look at the Artemis program’s mission
Michael Greshko writing for the National Geographic, provides a very detailed insight into the Artemis mission. He says that the Artemis crews will live in Orion, a capsule made to keep a crew of four alive and healthy for up to 21 days in deep space. The European Space Agency will give each Orion capsule a European Service Module that will carry solar panels, life-support systems, fuel tanks, and the main engine needed to get into lunar orbit.
The Space Launch System, or SLS, will take Orion to the Moon. It is a rocket that is 322 feet tall and has a core stage that burns a mix of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. On the first stage of the big rocket, there are four RS-25 rocket engines, which were made for the space shuttle program. Artemis I is an unmanned test flight to the Moon and back. It will use engines that have been fixed up after being used on at least three space shuttle missions.
The SLS rocket is a much more powerful vehicle than the Apollo program’s Saturn V. The rocket will have a total thrust of 8.8 million pounds, which is 15% more than the Apollo program’s Saturn V. When the rocket gets to space, the upper stage will separate from the core stage and fire its own engines to send Orion and the European Service Module toward the Moon. The two huge solid-fuel boosters will provide most of the thrust at launch, and the upper stage will give the final push to send Orion and the European Service Module to the Moon.
Orion can’t land on the Moon by itself, so when NASA tries to land on the Moon during Artemis III, the crew will be moved from Orion to a modified version of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft. NASA has been trying to land on the Moon for years, but sometimes when they try, something goes wrong.
According to a NASA fact sheet, 40 percent of lunar missions failed in the last 60 years. So NASA has decided when they try to land on Artemis III during Orion’s mission, they will use a modified version of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft. A Starship is currently being tested and is supposed to take astronauts to and from the Moon’s surface. So if everything goes according to plan, Orion and the crew can land on the Moon safely!
Once Orion returns to Earth, the gumdrop-shaped capsule will use its heat shields to survive the fiery descent through Earth’s atmosphere and then use its parachutes to land in the ocean.
What are the Artemis program’s first tasks?
The first mission, Artemis I, is an unmanned test launch that could happen as soon as August 29, with backup dates on September 2 and 5. Artemis I will be the first test flight without a crew for the entire “stack” of vehicles, which includes Orion, the European Service Module, and the SLS rocket. Orion is the only part that has been to space before. It was put on another rocket and sent into space in December 2014 to test its heat shields. This first mission will last four to six weeks, depending on when it launches. Orion will orbit around the Moon and then return to Earth.
The first flight with people on board will be Artemis II, which won’t happen before May 2024. In Orion, a crew of four will go around the Moon for ten days and then return to Earth. The mission will be like the flight of Apollo 8 in December 1968.
Artemis III is the mission that will send people back to the Moon’s surface. It won’t take off before 2025. This mission with four astronauts will start a lot like Artemis II, but when Orion gets into orbit around the Moon, it will dock with a Starship from SpaceX that is already there. Then, two crew members will use Starship to land near the Moon’s south pole. These astronauts will spend about 6.5 days exploring and doing research. Then, Starship will take the crew back to lunar orbit, where the astronauts will get back on Orion and head back to Earth.
Where on the Moon will Artemis III land?
Artemis III will land near the Moon’s south pole, which is different from where the Apollo missions did. NASA has shown the public 13 possible landing sites. Each one is about a square with a side of 9.3 miles and has at least ten potential landing spots. Whether you’re a science fiction fan or just looking for a new place to explore, these landing spots are sure to interest you! Each possible landing site has a unique and exciting opportunity for exploration.
NASA is thinking about these places because they have different types of geology that haven’t been studied before. Each site has flat ground for a safe landing, and it stays light for 6.5 days at a time so that astronauts can remain on the surface for almost a week. Other times of the day, the areas are in shadow, so the exact place where Artemis III will land will depend on when the mission starts.
The regolith, the name for the rocks and dust on the Moon, has chemical signs of water in areas always in the shade near the landing sites. If water ice could be taken from the lunar regolith, it would be much easier to set up a long-term human presence on the Moon, like a research station like those in Antarctica.
NASA has announced that a robot called VIPER will be sent to the Moon’s south pole in 2024 to learn more about the ice deposits and see if any water is present. If the astronauts on the Artemis III can figure out how to get their hands on this water, they will be able to keep studying the area for years to come!
What made the Artemis program happen?
Artemis program has roots in the Constellation spaceflight program, which President George W. Bush started. In 2005, it was made official and became NASA’s human spaceflight program to replace the space shuttle, which was retiring.
Concerned that it would be late and cost more than expected, the Obama administration canceled the Constellation program. This threw the aerospace industry, which had grown up around the space shuttle and Constellation, into muddy waters. In response, Congress passed a bill in 2010 that kept the Constellation crew capsule Orion and called for a new rocket, which would become SLS, that would use contracts already in place for the space shuttle and Constellation.
Plans for Orion and SLS have changed over the years, but the Artemis program as we know it today was set up under the Trump administration, with a renewed focus on going back to the Moon as a way to get to Mars. The Biden administration has kept the Artemis program mostly the same but moved the goal date for landing on the Moon from 2024 to 2025.
It is interesting that Artemis and Orion have roots in a space program named Constellation and that NASA chose these names. Artemis and Orion were lovers in Greek mythology. Sadly Orion got killed in a battle with a giant scorpion, and Artemis requested the Gods that Orion would be remembered in a constellation along with the scorpion (Scorpio, another famous constellation).
How much will the Artemis program cost?
According to Nature.com, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, Artemis-related programs will cost about $93 billion from 2012 to 2025, and each of the first Artemis launches will cost about $4.1 billion. Cost estimates for theArtemis program were low at first, but now they are so high that NASA’s Inspector General Paul Martin said they are “unsustainable.”
So far, Congress has stuck to its plan to pay for the Artemis program. The Planetary Society, a nonprofit that supports space exploration, says that a little less than half of NASA’s annual budget is spent on human spaceflight and that NASA’s total budget makes up 0.4% of federal discretionary spending.
An international project
Even though the Artemis program is a US project, NASA has asked other countries to join. Canada and Japan have agreed to help build a space station called Gateway that will be built around the Moon in the future. NASA has also signed the “Artemis Accords” with Canada, Japan, and at least 18 other countries. These are principles for peaceful cooperation in space and are not legally binding.
- Artemis program will help NASA and its international partners learn more about the Moon, and its environment.
- Artemis program is a step toward building a space station around the Moon.
Who will get to travel to the Moon?
No astronauts have been chosen yet to fly on crewed Artemis missions, but that hasn’t stopped NASA officials from saying that all the astronauts in their program are eligible to fly on Artemis missions. NASA has also said that a Canadian astronaut will fly on Artemis II to thank Canada for the money it has put into the program.
NASA has also promised that Artemis III will put the first woman on the Moon. The agency also says that Artemis III or a future mission will bring the first person of color to the Moon’s surface.
The benefits of flying on a crewed Artemis mission are that it will help NASA learn more about how to keep humans alive in space, and it will also help us prepare for future human missions to Mars.
The dangers of flying on a crewed Artemis mission are that it can still be considered a dangerous space mission. It will require a courageous and experienced crew to take it on. Astronaut training is intense, and the long-term health effects of being in space are still being analyzed. The Moon, as well as having no atmosphere, has some parts that reach extreme heat and cold. Landing on the wrong part of the Moon would be fatal.
Why is NASA sending people to the Moon?
NASA and other space agencies have renewed their plans to go to the Moon because it is an excellent place to learn about science and is not too far away. Samples brought back by the Apollo missions show that the Moon’s soil and impact craters are like a history book for the past 4.5 billion years of the solar system.
The Moon could be a great training ground for astronauts preparing for future missions to other parts of the solar system. Even though the Moon and Mars are very different in many ways, what astronauts learn about building shelters, flying through deep space, and getting water from ice deposits on the Moon could help them explore Mars in the future.
Clive Neal, a University of Notre Dame scientist who studies the Moon, thinks that the Artemis program will be a success or failure based on what it can do for technology. He says the Apollo program’s guidance computer helped get the silicon chip industry off the ground. “The end goal should be to improve life on Earth,” he says.
After Artemis III, what comes next?
Ultimately, Congress and the American people will decide what will happen to the Artemis program. NASA is planning to send more people to the Moon’s surface in the near future. For Artemis IV, parts of SLS and Orion are already being built.
Artemis program is getting a lot of new infrastructure! NASA is building the Gateway space station to go around the Moon with the help of the Canadian and Japanese space agencies. This ship is a staging area for future trips to the Moon’s surface. Parts of the Gateway are already being built, and the first two modules could be launched as early as 2024. The Gateway will be completely put together in lunar orbit by the time the Artemis IV mission takes off, which won’t happen before 2026.
NASA is hard at work on plans for a whole host of other things that could be done on the Moon, like a communications network called “LunaNet” and a habitat on the surface. But these plans for people to live on the Moon permanently depend on how well the first few Artemis launches go. These launches will test the world’s newest moon rocket and spacecraft.
Benefits of the Artemis program include:
- Testing the world’s newest moon rocket and spacecraft
- Paving the way for people to live on the Moon permanently
Dangers of the Artemis program include:
- Failures during launches could cause a loss of money and delay in the program
- There is a risk that the spacecraft will not reach the Moon and be lost forever
Only time will tell whether the Artemis program was worth it, but we will all be on the edge of our seats to see the first landing on the Moon after more than 50 years and hopefully in much greater video quality than the last time.
Featured image credit: Artemis program by NASA/Ben Smegelsky