How the United States wants to return to the Moon (before aiming for Mars)

Maxar Technologies/Handout/Reuters This Monday, August 29, the Artemis 1 rocket will take off from Florida. A first step in a long process that should lead NASA to set foot on the Moon again before targeting Mars (photo taken on August 25 via satellite imagery).

Maxar Technologies/Handout/Reuters

This Monday, August 29, the Artemis 1 rocket will take off from Florida. A first step in a long process that should lead NASA to set foot on the Moon again before targeting Mars (photo taken on August 25 via satellite imagery).

SPACE – This is the first stage of a great project that will take place on Monday, August 29 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the takeoff of the Artemis 1 mission. Because Artemis is the name of the American program that returns to Moon, one of NASA’s top priorities in the coming decades.

Her name was chosen in the echo of the Apollo program, which got only 12 men to ever walk on the Moon, between 1969 and 1972. Artemis, in Greek mythology, was the twin sister of Apollo (” Apollo in English) and a goddess associated with the Moon.

After takeoff on Monday, the idea is to send the first woman and the first person of color to the lunar surface, then to prepare – ultimate goal – a first trip to Mars. The HuffPost takes stock of these missions of increasing difficulty that mark the entry into a new era of space conquest.

  • The first flights of Artemis

When it took off on Monday, the Artemis 1 mission was supposed to test without a crew NASA’s new giant rocket, called SLS, as well as the Orion capsule placed on top of it. The goal is to ensure that they can carry astronauts safely into the future.

Orion will go into orbit around the Moon before returning to Earth.

Then, in 2024, Artemis 2 will take astronauts to the Moon, but not land there, like Apollo 8 in 1968. The composition of the crew should be announced by the end of the year. We already know that a Canadian will be part of it and thus become the first Canadian national to go into deep space.

  • 2025 or 2026 before landing on the Moon again?

This third mission can be compared to Apollo 11 (July 1969) because it was the first in the program to land astronauts on the Moon. They are expected to arrive for the first time at the South Pole of the Moon, where the presence of water in the form of ice is confirmed, and not near the equator as at the time of Apollo.

Artemis 3 is officially scheduled for 2025, but according to an independent public audit it should happen in 2026 “at the earliest”. From Artemis 3, NASA wants to launch about one mission per year.

To do this, NASA chose the private company SpaceX to build the Artemis 3 lander. Concretely, this lander will shuttle between the Orion capsule and the lunar surface: once in orbit around the Moon, the capsule will dock with the craft, sent separately. upstream, which is then responsible for lowering the astronauts to the surface, then remounting them. Then aboard Orion they will return to Earth.

This lander will be a version of the “Starship” spacecraft, which until now has been conducting suborbital tests. To reach Earth’s orbit, it must be powered by the “Super Heavy” first stage rocket, also in development.

And before going to the Moon, it needs to refuel by refueling directly in space from another “Starship”, which was previously full of fuel. A very dangerous transfer that has never been attempted before. For the continuation of the Artemis program, NASA launched a new call for tenders to other companies for the development of additional landers.

  • A space station that wants more

The Artemis program also includes the construction of a station in orbit around the Moon, called Gateway.

The launch of the first two elements (a habitat module and the propulsion system) is scheduled for the end of 2024 at the earliest and will be carried out using the SpaceX “Falcon Heavy” rocket.

The following modules will be launched by SLS alongside Orion and its crew, which will be responsible for assembling them at their destination. Astronauts will stay there between 30 and 60 days. Eventually, a lander will land there to allow them to get off the Moon from the station. The Gateway will also serve as a stopover before future missions to Mars.

  • The ultimate goal: Mars

Because Paradoxically, the star at the heart of the Artemis program is not the Moon, but Mars.

So NASA wants to test, thanks to the Artemis program, the technologies needed to send the first people to the red planet: new combinations, vehicles for touring, mini-power stations, use of lunar water , and so on.

It is envisaged to build a base on the surface of the Moon. The idea is indeed to learn how to build a sustainable human presence in deep space, but not much. If there is trouble, the Moon is only a few days away. March, at least a few months.

See also at the HuffPost: NASA will send 2 more helicopters to Mars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.