NASA’s Artemis Moon Touchdown Program: Launches, Timeline, and Extra

Artist’s conception of an Artemis astronaut engaged on the lunar floor.
Picture: NASA

Not since 1972 has a human set foot on the Moon, however NASA is aiming to alter that by means of its bold Artemis program. The lunar missions might start in late 2022, so we’ve assembled this information to maintain you knowledgeable and updated.

This publish will likely be up to date regularly as new data turns into out there.

On December 14, 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt mentioned goodbye to the Moon. As they drifted towards Earth, it probably by no means occurred to them that people wouldn’t return to the lunar floor for an additional half-century or extra. However that is exactly the place we discover ourselves in the present day, with the Apollo missions firmly within the historical past books.

What’s NASA’s Artemis mission?

Artemis is this system that lastly guarantees to rekindle lunar exploration, as NASA seeks to land a lady and man on the Moon by no sooner than 2025. However there’s much more to Artemis than simply plopping two folks onto the lunar floor. This time, NASA plans to construct a sustainable presence on and across the Moon, and to use this system as a stepping stone to the subsequent large leap: a crewed mission to Mars.

NASA’s House Launch System on the launchpad at Kennedy House Middle in Florida.
Photograph: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Introduced in 2017, Artemis will “allow human enlargement throughout the photo voltaic system,” in response to NASA’s Artemis Plan. The Artemis period might contain as many as 11 lunar missions (some crewed and a few uncrewed), of which the primary 5 are at present below improvement.

Lengthy-time period targets embrace the development of the Lunar Gateway (the primary area station in orbit across the Moon) and the set up of Artemis Base Camp (a floor station). Each industrial and worldwide companions will likely be concerned, the latter of which is able to embrace the Canadian House Company, the European House Company, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Company (JAXA).

Why did NASA select the identify Artemis?

Artemis is the Greek goddess of the Moon and the hunt and the dual sister of Apollo, so it’s a pleasant call-back to the unique crewed lunar missions. In equity, nevertheless, Artemis is a superior identify selection for a lunar mission, as Apollo is the Greek god of the Solar. The brand new identify, it might be argued, is a well timed correction to a probably sexist oversight.

Why is NASA going again to the Moon?

By way of NASA, the USA is aiming to guide an “revolutionary and sustainable program of exploration with industrial and worldwide companions to allow human enlargement throughout the photo voltaic system and to deliver again to Earth new data and alternatives,” in response to a House Coverage Directive signed on December 11, 2017. “Starting with missions past low-Earth orbit, the USA will lead the return of people to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, adopted by human missions to Mars and different locations,” the White Home memorandum continues.

Or extra merely, the return to our pure satellite tv for pc is about fostering new scientific discoveries, investigating potential financial advantages, and galvanizing a “new technology of explorers,” in response to NASA.

Certainly, there’s nonetheless heaps to be taught concerning the Moon, comparable to the character of its origin and its geochemical composition. Importantly, Artemis astronauts are set to discover the Moon’s south polar areas in quest of water ice—a key enabler of a sustainable human presence there. Artemis might additionally carve a path to the commercialization of the Moon, whether or not it’s area tourism or the mining of assets comparable to rare-earth parts and helium-3.

Artemis mission overview, exhibiting anticipated developments on the floor and in lunar orbit.
Picture: NASA

The half about Artemis being a stepping stone to Mars can also be essential. The applied sciences and learnings accrued over the course of those missions ought to make it potential for NASA and its companions to finally launch a crewed mission to the Crimson Planet.

What applied sciences are wanted for Artemis?

NASA and its companions, each non-public and public, are within the midst of creating a slew of latest applied sciences. The Orion spacecraft that can take astronauts to the Moon and again is already developed, however virtually every part else nonetheless must be constructed. And that features NASA’s House Launch System (SLS)—a 322-foot-tall (98-meter) behemoth that NASA calls its “Mega Moon rocket.”

Artist’s conception of an Artemis floor mission.
Picture: NASA

Different key applied sciences embrace two totally different lunar landers, or Human Touchdown Techniques, as NASA refers to them, a lunar spacesuit often called xEMU, an unpressurized lunar rover, the aforementioned Lunar Gateway (which itself will contain a number of parts), and a bunch of exploration floor methods.

How a lot will Artemis price?

Lots. An Inspector Common audit from November 15, 2021 discovered that $40 billion has already been spent on Artemis and that NASA may be anticipated to spend a complete of $93 billion by the tip of 2025. Alarmingly, the identical report claimed that the primary 4 launches of SLS/Orion will price an estimated $4.1 billion apiece. Ought to NASA not have the ability to scale back this price, the area company “will face vital challenges to sustaining its Artemis program in its present configuration,” the Inspector Common warned.

Is SpaceX part of Artemis?

Sure, SpaceX is enjoying a key function in Artemis. In April 2021, the Elon Musk-led firm signed a $2.89 billion contract with NASA to offer a lunar lander for the missions. The corporate is aspiring to leverage its upcoming Starship rocket for the platform, which would require the big rocket to carry out a vertical touchdown on the lunar floor.

Conceptual picture exhibiting a SpaceX human lander design.
Picture: SpaceX

Previous to this, the Starship lander must re-fuel in low Earth orbit and hyperlink up with Orion to carry out the astronaut switch in lunar orbit. The required technological complexity appears daunting, and we eagerly wait to see if the SpaceX group can pull it off. That mentioned, NASA is in search of a second lunar lander from a yet-to-be decided industrial supplier.

Has NASA chosen astronauts for the Artemis missions?

NASA has not but disclosed the names of astronauts who will participate within the Artemis missions, however the area company has assembled an preliminary group of astronauts “to assist pave the way in which for the subsequent lunar missions.” The primary crewed Artemis mission gained’t occur till 2024 on the earliest, so we’ll in all probability have to attend to seek out out who will likely be concerned and during which capability.

When is the Artemis 1 launch?

No agency date is set for Artemis 1—the uncrewed inaugural launch of the large SLS rocket. NASA continues to be within the midst of getting ready the rocket for its much-anticipated liftoff, however it might occur in late August.

For this mission, an uncrewed Orion spacecraft will journey to the Moon and return to Earth with out performing a lunar touchdown. Artemis 1 will serve to check the fledgling rocket and Orion below real-mission situations, setting the stage for a crewed mission.

Overview of Artemis 1.
Picture: NASA

Artemis 1 will see the deployment of 13 low-cost cubesats and embrace a trio of manikins designed to measure vibrations and area radiation, together with a vest for safeguarding astronauts in opposition to ionizing radiation.

When is the Artemis 2 launch?

Artemis 2, during which a Orion capsule full with human crew will journey to the Moon and again with out touchdown, is at present scheduled to occur no sooner than Could 2024. The mission will likely be just about equivalent to Artemis 1, save for the presence of 4 NASA astronauts.

When is the Artemis 3 launch?

Artemis 3 is at present focused for no sooner than 2025. The plan is to land a person and lady close to the Moon’s south polar area, the place they may spend practically a full week exploring the lunar floor. The 2 remaining crew members will keep aboard the Lunar Gateway, which itself will likely be linked to Orion. Ought to all go as deliberate, an unpressurized rover and different tools will likely be positioned on the floor prematurely of the mission. At the least 4 spacewalks are deliberate, with a precedence positioned on the seek for water ice.

When is the Artemis 4 launch?

Conceptual view of Lunar Gateway (left) and the Orion spacecraft.
Picture: NASA

The fourth Artemis mission is at present deliberate for 2026. 4 astronauts will launch to the Lunar Gateway, the place they may proceed to build-out the lunar outpost. The mission will ship the European House Company’s I-Hab habitat module to Gateway, which is able to function in a singular near-rectilinear halo orbit. I-Hab will finally function the principle habitat for astronauts when staying on board Gateway. A lunar touchdown isn’t anticipated to occur throughout this mission.

When is the Artemis 5 launch?

Artemis 5 ought to launch in 2027. The plan is to ship 4 astronauts to Gateway after which deploy two crew members to the lunar floor. The astronauts will as soon as once more discover the south polar area of the Moon.

The mission will even search to ship ESA’s ESPRIT (European System Offering Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications) to Gateway. ESPIRIT “will provide enhanced communications, refuelling and a window considerably just like the European-built Cupola observatory on the Worldwide House Station,” in response to ESA.

What’s going to occur subsequent?

Artemis missions 6 by means of 11 are nonetheless within the proposal stage, so we’re not fully sure as to after they’ll launch or what will likely be concerned.

Artist’s conception of a late Artemis period mission.
Picture: NASA

That mentioned, the Gateway will want an airlock, so if Artemis 6 is to occur, the supply and set up of this part will likely be be a objective. These late Artemis missions will broaden in each scope and ambition and can probably see the set up of a lunar habitats, a pressurized cell dwelling, amongst different parts designed to allow humanity’s sustained presence on the Moon. By this stage, lunar adventures might final so long as 45 days.

Ought to the Artemis program unfold as anticipated, NASA can then plan for a crewed journey to Mars. The present expectation is for a crew to land on the Crimson Planet within the late 2030s or early 2040s. A crewed expedition to Mars and again, and not using a touchdown, might occur in 2033 to reap the benefits of a super orbital alignment between Mars and Earth.

And from there, the remainder of photo voltaic system awaits. But it surely all begins with Artemis.

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