After the conclusion of Apollo 17 in 1972, humans have not stepped foot onto the Moon since. The Artemis Program started in 2017, and NASA aims to touchdown on the south poles of the lunar surface by 2024, as well as land the first woman and person of color on the Moon. This mission will include a full expedition with the primary objective of setting up a lunar base to sustain the presence of humans on the moon–a task that could result in several weeks to months of constant research rather than the mere 3 days that Apollo 17 experienced 50 years ago. NASA has already arranged several technological advancements to the mission that would have previously been impossible during the Apollo Program, which will also help equip astronauts with the best help available on the mission. As of now, Artemis I will be scheduled to launch on the 29th of August this year at 8:22 EST to test the Orion capsule and the new Block 1 rocket.
The most interesting thing about the program lies within the mission objective. NASA has decided to set camp down on the Moon in hopes of allowing astronauts to spend up to months at a time on the lunar surface, collecting data and experimenting with staying on the Moon for a longer period of time. A Lunar Gateway was designed that is currently orbiting the Moon. It acts like the ISS, yet it serves primarily as a station where astronauts can take shelter and continue to research the lunar surface. After an Orion capsule delivers four astronauts to the gateway, two would go down to spend a week on the surface and sample the surface while the remaining would stay aboard. NASA has also developed Lunar Vehicles, which will help transport humans and cargo/supplies from the Lunar Gateway to the rocky surface of the Moon (including the astronauts). This ensures multiple and continuous missions to the Moon, in comparison to the one-way mission performed during the Apollo Program. Many other instruments are currently being built that will be covered in much greater detail in a future article.
The first mission is Artemis I which will be launched on a Space Launch System (SLS) by the end of this year to test the newly powerful rocket, “Block 1”, that will return astronauts to the moon, as well as a new Orion capsule developed for the crew to travel in. The mission is simply for the spacecraft to remain orbiting the Moon–around 62 miles from the surface–in a 20-26 day mission before landing back on Earth.
Shortly after, Artemis II will be launched by NASA which will be a four-person crewed mission around the Moon. The test flight will last around 10 days and will help gather further information and data before the actual flight. With both these test missions helping to contribute to a safer flight, Artemis III will take off with four astronauts to the Moon on a 30-day mission. The Lunar Landing System will then transport two of the astronauts down to the south pole region of the Moon, which has yet to be explored. Within the span of a week, NASA hopes that the astronauts can collect samples of water ice, and once again make history on the Moon.
Although humans have been to and explored the Moon countless times before, technology has advanced significantly. NASA has introduced its “Moon to Mars” mission which introduces one of the key focuses of the Artemis Program of simulating a multi-month operation that would be conducted on the red planet in the near future.