21 May 2021
Get in loser, we’re going to the Moon.
NASA is planning on sending humans to the Moon by 2024. This is Project Artemis. Unlike the Apollo missions, this project’s goal is to establish a long term and sustainable presence on the Moon in preparation for traveling to Mars.
According to NASA’s official Project Artemis website, “During the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with our commercial and international partners and establish sustainable exploration for the first time. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.”
This is all very exciting, but no one seems to know about it. Humans are returning to the Moon and are preparing to go to Mars, but the average person has no clue. “No, I can’t say I’ve heard of it,” said Alex Osteen, a freshman at Good Counsel High School. Project Artemis is the Apollo mission for our generation, except bigger and better.
Returning to the Moon sounds simple in theory. We did it fifty years ago, right? Unfortunately, it’s a lot more complicated than that. NASA is going to have a very busy decade with planning the Mars mission, planning a lunar economy, landing and maintaining a presence on the Moon, and creating all the components necessary for this to get off the ground.
According to NASA, Project Artemis has three phases. Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight to test the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System [a rocket]. NASA is hoping to run this test this year, but there is no set launch date yet. Artemis II will be the first crewed test flight, which will not be landing on the Moon and will hopefully happen next year. Artemis III will be the flight that lands astronauts on the Moon in 2024 and the continued missions to the Moon every year after.
Project Artemis at its core is a mission to return to the Moon. However, there is a plethora of goals and agendas beneath the surface. Currently, creating the technology to take astronauts to the Moon is the main goal. According to NASA, the Orion spacecraft is going to be the vehicle that will transport astronauts to the Moon. The Space Launch System will be the rocket that will send the Orion spacecraft along with crew and cargo to the Moon. Technology like the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System are currently in construction or being tested. This technology is not being built by NASA, but by private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics. There are multiple industries involved with the technology that is necessary for space travel. Space agencies in other countries, such as the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Russian Space Agency, are lending a helping hand as well. This makes the 2024 deadline a lot more feasible than if NASA was responsible for planning, building, and constructing everything. NASA is not only outsourcing for the initial mission, but for the technology needed for creating a sustainable presence on the Moon.
A large part of Project Artemis is creating a longstanding presence on the Moon. One of the most important elements of this is the Gateway. According to NASA, the Gateway is going to be a station that orbits the Moon. This is where scientific investigations will be held and the place to go in case of an emergency. Another major element is the Artemis Base Camp. This camp is going to be on the Moon’s surface and a place where exploration of the lunar surface and scientific investigations will take place. NASA is focusing on the water and minerals found on the Moon for investigation. These resources have the possibility of fueling a “lunar economy”. This is very dependent on what comes from the research done on these resources, but NASA believes that they can create a lunar economy that is fueled by mining and using the resources found on the Moon. These resources may go into paying for interstellar missions, but the concept of a lunar economy is still in development and far from implementation. All of this will go into the planning of the Mars expedition.
After humanity has established their lunar presence, NASA is planning on going to Mars. This mission, if everything goes to plan, will be achieved in the 2030s. Every test and experiment done for Project Aretmis is paving the way for humans to land on Mars for the first time.
Hopefully in 20 years we’ll be able to say, “get in loser, we’re going to Mars.”