Artemis Mission: The Great Return to The Moon

NASA has plans to make Artemis III the first human mission to anchor on the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, although there is a good chance that this mission will be delayed. The new target date is 2025.


The purpose of sending astronauts back to the Moon is to create a base there that can serve as a transit hub for human trips to Mars. NASA will make history by sending a female and an individual of color to the Moon as part of its Artemis missions. These missions will also use cutting-edge technology to investigate an unprecedented amount of the lunar surface.


NASA's Artemis 1 on the Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
NASA's Artemis 1 on the Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Why is the program called Artemis?


Artemis was a Greek mythical figure who was worshiped as the goddess of the Moon. She was Apollo's twin sister. Therefore, it is abundantly evident that there is a connection with the expedition that first took people into lunar orbit fifty years ago. Orion is the name given to the crewed spaceship that is presently in the process of being developed. Orion is a well-known constellation in the night sky, and in classical mythology, he is Artemis's hunting partner. Orion is also one of the most identifiable constellations in the sky.


Primary goals of Artemis mission:


Equality.


A primary objective of Artemis is to successfully land a woman and a person of color on the cover of the Moon for the only time.


Technology.


The technologies now being developed aim to prepare the path for future deep-space missions. These technologies range from rockets to spacesuits.


Partnerships.


One of NASA's first large-scale partnerships with private corporations like SpaceX and Boeing, the Artemis program is an example of this kind of partnership.


Long-term presence.


Where the Apollo 17 crew stayed on the lunar surface for three days, the Artemis team plans to create a base so that future expeditions may last for weeks or even months.


Knowledge.


NASA argues that the following sequence of missions will be able to gather samples from the Moon more strategically than they were able to do during the Apollo period since more information about the Moon is known today compared to 50 years ago and technology has significantly evolved.


Resources.


The finding of water and the possibility of reserves of rare minerals on the Moon offer promise for future investigation and utilization in the fields of science and the economy.


Why go back to the moon?


As seen by the accomplishment of the International Space Station, NASA and its partners have made significant headway in the decades following the Apollo mission. Since 1998, people have been living and performing on the International Space Station (ISS).


However, it is just 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the planet's surface. In comparison, the distance to the Moon is 250,000 miles, while the distance to Mars is 140 million miles. Returning to the Moon is the next step that makes the most sense for humankind to create a more permanent presence beyond low Earth orbit, which is where the ISS is now positioned. There are many compelling reasons to go back in time, or as you may have overheard say, to travel to the Moon in the future. In 2019, former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine addressed a letter to Congress.


How will NASA get back to the Moon?


The Artemis Moon missions are comprised mainly of the following four subcomponents.


These are the following:


Orion transporter spaceship.


ESA's Orion space capsule module for the Artemis mission. (Image credit: NASA)
ESA's Orion space capsule module for the Artemis mission. (Image credit: NASA)

Crew, command, and service modules of the Orion spacecraft | Source: NASA (June 2022) Orion is the command module that is required to carry people across space. It is outfitted with life support equipment as well as shuttle interfaces.


Lunar gateway.


The Lunar Gateway is a compact space station that orbits the Moon and is intended to serve as a versatile staging ground for exploration missions on and beyond the Moon.


Illustration of NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching the Gateway in lunar orbit. (Image credit: NASA)
Illustration of NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching the Gateway in lunar orbit. (Image credit: NASA)

After the Orion module has completed its docking procedure with Gateway, the astronauts will go to the lunar landing module from this location. In contrast to the International Space Station (ISS), the Lunar Gateway will not be continuously inhabited. Instead, it would function as a platform where astronauts may dwell and conduct research for a limited time. Additionally, it can carry out scientific studies even during human visits to the Moon.


NASA is now collaborating with several international partners, including the European Space Agency, to develop the blueprints for the Lunar Gateway.


Moon landing module.


The Lunar Gateway will serve as the starting point for the journey of the lunar landing vehicles that will transport personnel and goods to the surface of the Moon. Both a human landing system, often known as HLS, and a range of other vehicles for robots and freight are currently being developed by NASA in collaboration with private businesses.


Artist’s concept of a moon landing for the NASA's Artemis program. (Image credit: NASA)
Artist’s concept of a moon landing for the NASA's Artemis program. (Image credit: NASA)

The Lunar Module that Apollo employed was only intended to be used for a single trip back to the surface of the Moon. On the other hand, the landing mechanisms that will be used for Artemis missions are intended to be used for more than one mission.


Space Launch System (SLS).


The launcher is the component that will be responsible for transporting all of these components beyond the atmosphere of Earth and into space. This extremely heavy-lift rocket stands at 322 feet, making it higher than the Statue of Liberty.


The SLS core stage raised in the Vehicle Assembly Building transfer aisle. (Image credit: NASA/Cory Huston)
The SLS core stage raised in the Vehicle Assembly Building transfer aisle. (Image credit: NASA/Cory Huston)

It is projected that each launch will cost $800 million. When it is finished, the Space Launch System (SLS) will be the most robust rocket in the world. It will be even more potent than the Saturn V launcher, the first rocket to take humans to the Moon.


The development of the launcher has been going on at NASA for the better part of the previous decade, and the organization has had to deal with several setbacks and escalating expenses. At Kennedy Space Center, the rocket and spacecraft that were going to be used for Artemis I were brought to the launchpad in March 2022.


Mission timeline.


If the Artemis I mission were to lift off on November 14, the mission would be about 25 and a half days, and the spacecraft would splash down on Friday, December 9, in the Pacific Ocean. At the beginning of August, NASA announced that it intends to send the Artemis II mission into space in 2024.


Artemis 1 flight path to the moon and back. (Image credit: NASA)
Artemis 1 flight path to the moon and back. (Image credit: NASA)

This will be the first crewed task to go outside low-Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. As part of this mission, astronauts will perform a lunar flyby test. After that, in the year 2025, NASA plans to launch the Artemis III mission, which will bring a woman and an individual of the color of a distinct race to the surface of the Moon.


Despite this, there is a significant possibility that the mission may run behind time. It just takes time to be ready for such a massive undertaking. Since the commencement of the Artemis expedition, there has been a significant debate over the timeframe.


When US President Donald Trump in 2017 asked NASA to return to the Moon, the space agency at the time estimated that they would be able to do so by 2028. The government of President Trump proposed in 2019 a more aggressive pace to send humans around to the Moon by 2024. Since then, NASA has reported that the Artemis III mission will soon get off the ground in 2025.