Have you heard about NASA‘s ambitious new plan to return to the Moon? It‘s called the Artemis program and it aims to land the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2025. As your space enthusiast friend, let me walk you through everything you need to know about this exciting new chapter in space exploration!
Why Go Back to the Moon Now?
It has been nearly 50 years since NASA last sent astronauts to the Moon during the iconic Apollo era that first put bootprints on another world. So why go back now?
As NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine explained, "We‘re going to the Moon sustainably. To stay. With landers and robots and rovers and humans living and working on another world to go to Mars and beyond."
Unlike the short Apollo missions that lasted just days, Artemis represents the first steps in establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon for months or longer. This time, we are going to the Moon to stay.
According to NASA‘s plan, returning to the Moon will allow us to:
- Demonstrate new technologies for living and working in deep space to enable future missions to Mars in the 2030s
- Conduct extensive lunar science and research that Apollo could only scratch the surface of
- Develop the Moon‘s resources and establish a lunar economy that could benefit life on Earth
- Inspire young generations and encourage careers in science and engineering
The program also comes at a time when other nations like China are rapidly advancing their space programs and setting their sights on cislunar space. Artemis allows NASA to secure America‘s leadership role in space exploration going forward.
Overview of the Artemis Program Missions
The Artemis program comprises a series of incremental crewed and uncrewed missions to the Moon planned over the next decade:
Artemis 1 – An uncrewed test flight of NASA‘s powerful new 322-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion deep space capsule around the Moon as early as November 2022.
Artemis 2 – The first crewed test flight of SLS and Orion that will orbit the Moon with four astronauts in 2024 for over 21 days before returning safely to Earth.
Artemis 3 – The mission that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2025 using an advanced new human landing system developed by SpaceX. They will stay for 6.5 days conducting science experiments, testing technologies, and laying groundwork for future surface missions.
Additional missions – Starting from Artemis 4 onwards, NASA plans annual crewed missions to establish a sustained lunar presence, with surface stays becoming progressively longer. The agency eventually hopes to have astronauts continuously living and working on the Moon.
New Advanced Technologies
To accomplish these ambitious goals, NASA has been developing powerful new rockets and vehicles tailored for deep space exploration:
Space Launch System (SLS) – A 364-foot-tall super heavy-lift expendable rocket that will be the most powerful ever built, with over 8.8 million pounds of thrust. That‘s 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rockets that powered Apollo to the Moon.
Orion Spacecraft – A state-of-the-art partially reusable capsule designed to support human missions into deep space, with capacity to transport 4 astronauts beyond the Moon. Orion can stay in space for up to 21 days undocked and over 6 months when docked to a lunar station.
Lunar Gateway – A small space station to be assembled high above the lunar surface starting in 2024. Gateway will serve as a communication hub, safe haven, and science outpost for Artemis missions.
Human Landing Systems – Next-generation lunar landers being developed by private companies like SpaceX. They will ferry astronauts between Gateway and the lunar surface on missions like Artemis 3.
Surface Infrastructure – Rovers, habitats, nuclear fission power systems, and other equipment needed to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon.
Ambitious Surface Activities Planned
The Artemis 3 mission represents a highly complex undertaking to land humans on the Moon again after over 50 years. The two astronauts who will take those historic first steps will be selected from NASA‘s 47 active astronauts who are now training extensively for surface operations.
Once on the lunar surface, the Artemis 3 crew will stay for 6 days conducting a packed schedule of activities including:
- Deploying science instruments and technology demonstrations
- Conducting 3-4 moonwalks totaling over 20 hours to explore the terrain
- Gathering rock and dust samples for return to Earth
- Testing advanced spacesuits designed for more mobility
- Validating solar wind dust experiments
- Operating next-generation lunar rovers over longer distances
- Evaluating use of resources like water ice at the landing site
- Performing biological experiments on plants and organisms
- Assessing how their bodies adapt to long-term lunar environments
The data and experience gained will be crucial to inform how we can live and work on the Moon for months at a time in future missions.
Building a Permanent Lunar Base
Artemis aims to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon using a modular, phased approach:
Artemis Base Camp – Initial temporary surface habitat like a Moon camper van for stays up to a month to understand challenges of living on another world.
Lunar Gateway – Assembled starting 2024, this lunar space station will serve as a communication hub and safe haven for astronauts. It will also host science modules from different countries.
Commercial services – NASA is looking to procure cargo deliveries, communication networks and other services from private companies like SpaceX to support lunar operations.
Robotic explorers – Rovers and drones will scout terrain and identify hazards ahead of human missions. They will also carry science instruments.
Surface infrastructure – Using local lunar resources, NASA aims to construct more permanent surface habitats, nuclear fission power systems, mining operations, labs and more over this decade.
Transition to Moon Village – With global cooperation including the ESA, JAXA, and CSA, Artemis could eventually evolve into a functioning lunar settlement hosting astronauts from many nations and even tourists. A true "Moon Village!"
Exciting Future Ahead
As you can see, we are entering a new golden age of human space exploration with Artemis! Combining cutting-edge technologies, scientific discovery, and the power of inspirational leadership, NASA‘s lunar return represents only the first step on an ambitious journey ahead.
Where Apollo planted flags and footprints, Artemis aims to establish a permanent human foothold on the Moon. Using the lunar surface as a training ground, we can then take giant leaps deeper into the solar system, even reaching Mars by the 2030s!
So buckle up, my friend! I hope this overview helps explain why there is so much excitement around Artemis and humanity‘s next era of space exploration. Let me know if you have any other questions!