NASA’s Artemis program aims to take humans back to the Moon through a series of missions. This time, they plan to do something more than just keep their foot on the moon. The mission aims to establish and sustain human presence on the Moon, using it as a launch pad for deeper space exploration.
The Artemis mission aims to explore the lunar surface using innovative technologies. With the collaboration of commercial and international partners, the first woman and the first person of colour will land on the Moon. This information will be used for the next great initiative: sending astronauts to Mars.
The Artemis Generation
The Artemis mission will serve as a crucial initiative for economic benefits, scientific discovery, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers: the Artemis Generation. This mission will not only add a new meaning to the global alliance for deeper space exploration but also maintain American leadership in exploration.
The Artemis program plans to have several missions, each building on the previous one. Additionally, Artemis Base Camp and the Gateway in lunar orbit will allow astronauts and robots to conduct more science and explore more than ever.
The First Stage of NASA’s Artemis Program: Artemis I
On November 16, 2022, at 1:47 a.m., NASA successfully launched Artemis I from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket lifted off for the first time.
Artemis I was on a test flight of an uncrewed Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft.
The Orion is the only spacecraft capable of deep space travel. It is designed to carry astronauts from Earth to lunar orbit and back. Meanwhile, the Space Launch System rocket is the most powerful rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and cargo to the Moon on a single mission.
Artemis I laid the foundations for subsequent missions within the Artemis program.
This journey took 25 days, 10 hours, and 53 minutes.
On December 11, 2022, Orion splashed back on Earth, marking the successful start of the Artemis program.
With the success of the Artemis I program, Artemis II is intended to be launched in 2024, sending humans around the moon and back.
Humans are Going Back to the Moon
NASA’s Artemis program plans to send four astronauts on a 10-day journey around the moon by November 2024. The Artemis II will be the first crewed mission in NASA’s Orion spacecraft, launched by a Space Launch System rocket, taking humans to the farthest distance in the solar system they have ever been.
One of the four crew members will be Christina Hammock Koch, the first woman to complete an all-female spacewalk.
As said by Merancy, the goal of the mission goes beyond visiting the Moon. He said Artemis II “is really ensuring that the vehicles are ready for longer-duration missions in the future.” This mission is set to mark a historic milestone in human space exploration.
The Gateway to Further Exploration
In November 2024, NASA plans to launch the first modules of its new space station, the Lunar Gateway, via the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. This spaceship will be in lunar orbit, supporting astronaut transfers between Orion and the lander for Artemis missions. NASA anticipates the gateway to remain in orbit for over a decade, enabling long-term human exploration on and around the Moon. It will provide a place to live and work and support long-term human exploration on and around the Moon.
As part of Artemis III, the first humans back on the moon were due to land in 2025 with the aid of the SpaceX Starship vehicle. However, it is pushed back to 2026. The Lunar Gateway will ensure the Artemis III mission, in which it is planned to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo program. The Artemis III mission will last for 30 days. Two astronauts, the first woman and the first person of colour, will land in the Moon’s South Pole region. Astronauts are expected to spend 6.5 days on the Moon’s surface, perform scientific experiments, and eventually return to Earth.
In the meantime, the remaining astronauts will complete one full orbit of the Moon before rejoining their fellow crew members on the Moon’s surface.
The final mode of transportation will be an American-designed human landing system that will take astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface and back to orbit.
Future Artemis Plans for Extended Lunar Exploration
The 4th Artemis mission will send the International Habitation (I-Hab) module to Gateway along with four astronauts to the lunar surface on board Starship. This mission will allow the crew to spend a week doing rover operations, moon walks, and science experiments. Furthermore, astronauts will also collect samples and bring them back to Earth on board Orion.
Artemis V will be followed by the delivery of another module of Gateway, ESPRIT, ‘European System Providing Refuelling Infrastructure and Telecommunication’. This will be another lunar landing to conduct further experiments and bring more samples to Earth.
Exploring Beyond the Artemis Mission
NASA is actively investigating water ice on the moon and exploring its potential use as drinking water and rocket fuel. These efforts aim to establish the moon as a staging point for further exploration of the solar system, including Mars.
However, according to a curator at the National Air and Space Museum, it’s not solely focused on Mars. The Artemis program serves a broader purpose: “It’s about learning how to live and work in deep space and creating a sustained presence beyond Earth’s orbit.”
Artemis $93 Billion Program to Make Its Way Back to the Moon
The Bush Administration announced this program in 2004. After 30 years of the Apollo Mission, they planned the initiative of returning humans to the moon. Originally, they planned the landing for 2020; however, due to low funding, they delayed the landing on the moon. It was not until the Obama Administration signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2020, which called for the immediate development of space launch systems. This rocket was capable of supporting crude missions beyond low Earth orbit and eventually to Mars. The Act also called for the development of the Orion crew capsule.
In 2017, Trump signed a space policy, which propelled the US-led Coalition of International and private partners. The collaboration aimed at returning humans to the Moon as a significant initiative. This effort laid the foundation for future missions to Mars by 2025.
On May 19, 2019, Jim Breidenstein, NASA Administrator, named the project Artemis.
A year later, Jim Breidenstein announced a series of agreements signed between partner nations as a governing framework. These agreements were aimed at guaranteeing civil and peaceful exploration under Artemis.