NASA plans to send the next man and the first female to the moon as part of the Artemis project by 2024. Artemis will involve a series of complex missions that will ultimately see mankind once again walking on Earth’s moon after more than fifty years.
The Artemis project which was previously called the Exploration Mission is set to take place over three main stages:
Artemis I – This will be NASA’s first trial of their deep space exploration systems.
The uncrewed launch of the Orion spaceship will make use of the world’s most powerful rocket and if everything goes to plan will travel further than any machine ever built to carry humans has gone.
This first flight will be three weeks long and the spaceship will travel over a total of over 1.3 million miles. Artemis I will have a number of objectives, one is to release numerous small satellites called CubeSats as it orbits Earth, which will be used to test a variety of new technologies and conduct experiments. Another is to test all systems such as communication with the control center, navigation and its ability to function within deep space.
Once the spaceship has reached the moon, it will not land, but will rather orbit it for six days before preforming a flyby which will put it within 60 miles of the surface. It will then utilize both the moons gravity and an engine supplied by the European Space Agency to send it back home to Earth.
Another test of Orion’s ability will be re-entry where it will face temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and capabilities of landing in the exact planned location near the recovery ship off the Baja coast in California.
Artemis II – Will be the first mission carrying astronauts aboard Orion and will take place in 2023. This flight will use a “hybrid free return trajectory” which will see the spaceship performing numerous maneuvers to send it into orbit and ultimately will carry the crew around Earth twice while they periodically fire the engines, creating sufficient power to propel the spacecraft to the Moon and then back home again.
The trajectory will send Orion and its crew behind the moon, using its gravity to “slingshot” the spacecraft back to Earth creating a figure-eight pattern.
The length of the mission is to be flexible ranging from eight to twenty-one days allowing NASA to accumulate vital data from the different phases of the mission, along with other test flight operations.
Deputy associate administrator of Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington, Bill Hill, explains the objective of the mission on NASA’S Artemis page saying, “During this mission, we have a number of tests designed to demonstrate critical functions, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space. It’s just like the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, which built up and demonstrated their capabilities over a series of missions.”
Artemis III – In 2024 Orion will leave Earth carrying the first man and woman that will step onto the Moon since the Apollo 12 astronauts. They will visit both the moon and the Lunar Gateway, a space station that is still in development and will play an essential role in the Artemis program. It serves a number of purposes including a laboratory, communications center, as well as, a storage area for robots and landers. The Lunar Gateway will also play an important role in our journey to Mars. NASA has also planned support missions between the Artemis II and Artemis III launches in order to send important components to the Gateway, including the “Human Landing System” which will be responsible for landing the astronauts on the Moon safely.
Once the crew makes it to the Lunar surface they will focus their attention on a number of aspects including:
- Fully investigating her surface, gaining more insight into the Universe, the Moon and Earth.
- Seeking out natural resources such as water to sustain astronauts for long periods of time.
- Practice how to survive and operate on a different “planet” long term.
- Test the current technologies before journeying to Mars.
Full details on the Artemis III mission are still currently limited, with further details and announcements expected as the mission progresses.