February 28, 2024

NASA’s Artemis Moon Landing Program: Launches, Timeline, and More

Man hasn’t set foot on the moon since 1972, but NASA wants to change that with its ambitious Artemis program. The lunar missions could begin in late 2022, so we’ve compiled this guide to keep you informed and up-to-date.

This post is continuously updated as new information becomes available.

On December 14, 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt bid farewell to the moon. As they drifted toward Earth, it probably never occurred to them that humans would not return to the lunar surface for half a century or more. But this is exactly where we are today, with the Apollo missions firmly in the history books.

What is NASA’s Artemis Project?

Artemis is the program that finally promises to revive lunar exploration, as NASA plans to land a woman and a man on the moon no earlier than 2025. But Artemis is much more than just two people plopping on the moon’s surface. This time, NASA plans to build a sustainable presence on and around the moon and use the program as a stepping stone to its next big leap: a human-crewed mission to Mars.

NASA’s Space Launch System on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Announced in 2017, Artemis will “enable human expansion across the solar system,” according to NASA’s Artemis Plan. The Artemis era can include up to 11 lunar missions (some human-crewed and some uncrewed), the first five of which are currently in development.

Long-term goals include the construction of the Lunar Gateway (the first space station in orbit around the moon) and the installation of Artemis Base Camp (a surface station). It will involve commercial and international partners, including the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Why did NASA choose the name Artemis?

The new name, one might argue, is a timely correction of a potentially sexist mistake. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the moon and the hunt and the twin sister of Apollo, so it’s a nice throwback to the original manned lunar missions. In fairness, however, Artemis is a superior name choice for a lunar mission, as Apollo is the Greek god of the sun.

NASA

Why is NASA going back to the moon?

Through NASA, the United States aims to lead an “innovative and sustainable exploration program with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring new knowledge and opportunity back to Earth,” according to a signed space policy dir, onve. White House. on December 11, 2017. “The United States will begin missions beyond low Earth orbit and will lead the return of humans to the Moon for extended exploration and use, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations,” it said. Note continues.

Or, more simply, the return to our natural satellite is about advancing new scientific discoveries, exploring potential economic benefits, and inspiring a “new generation of explorers,” according to NASA.

Indeed, there is still much to learn about the moon, such as the nature of its origin and its geochemical composition. Importantly, Artemis astronauts are ready to explore the moon’s Antarctic regions in search of water ice — an important factor for a sustainable human presence there. Artemis could also pave the way for the commercialization of the moon, be it for space tourism or the mining of resources such as rare earth elements and helium-3.

Artemis mission summary, with projected progress on the surface and in orbit around the moon. (Image: NASA)

The part about Artemis as a stepping stone to Mars is also crucial. The technologies and knowledge gained during these missions should enable NASA and its partners to eventually launch a human-crewed mission to the Red Planet.

What technologies are needed for Artemis?

NASA and its partners, both private and public, are developing a whole host of new technologies. The Orion spacecraft that will take astronauts to the moon and back has already been set, but practically everything else has yet to be built. And that includes NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) — a 98.15-foot-tall (98 meters) behemoth that NASA calls its “mega-moon rocket.”

Artist’s conception of an Artemis surface mission. (Image: NASA)

Other key technologies include two different lunar landers, or Human Landing Systems, as NASA calls them, a lunar spacesuit known as xEMU, an unpressurized lunar rover, the Lunar above Gateway (which itself will include multiple elements), and a host of exploration ground systems.

How much does Artemis cost?

Very much. The report claimed that SLS/Orion’s first four launches would cost an estimated $4.1 ($6) billion each. An inspector general’s audit dated November 15, 2021, $40 ($56) billion has already been spent on Artemis, and NASA is expected to pay a total of $US93 ($129) billion by the end of 2025. Should NASA not be able to reduce these costs, the space agency will face “major challenges in maintaining its Artemis program in its current configuration,” the inspector general warned.

Is SpaceX part of Artemis?

Yes, SpaceX plays a key role in Artemis. In April 2021, the Elon Musk-led company signed a $2.89 ($4) billion contract with NASA to provide a lunar lander for the missions. The company plans to use its forthcoming Starship rocket for the platform, requiring the giant rocket to perform a vertical landing on the lunar surface.

Conceptual image of a SpaceX human lander design. (Image: SpaceX)

Before this, the Starship lander must refuel in low Earth orbit and connect with Orion to transfer the astronaut into lunar orbit. The technological complexity required seems daunting, and we’re eager to see if the SpaceX team can pull it off. NASA is seeking a second lunar lander from a yet-to-be-determined commercial supplier.

Did NASA choose astronauts for the Artemis missions?

NASA has not yet announced the names of astronauts who will participate in the Artemis missions, but the space agency has assembled a first team of astronauts “to clear the way for the next lunar missions.” The first human-crewed Artemis mission won’t happen until 2024, so we’ll probably have to wait to find out who will be involved and in what capacity.

When will Artemis 1 be launched?

No date has been set for Artemis 1 – the inaugural unmanned launch of the massive SLS rocket. NASA is still preparing the rocket for its highly anticipated launch, which could happen in late August.

For this mission, an uncrewed Orion spacecraft will travel to the moon and return to Earth without making a moon landing. Artemis 1 will test the fledgling rocket and Orion under real mission conditions, paving the way for a human-crewed mission.

Overview of Artemis 1. (Image: NASA)

Artemis 1 will see the deployment of 13 inexpensive cubes, a trio of manikins designed to measure vibrations and space radiation, and a vest to protect astronauts from ionizing radiation.

When will the Artemis 2 be launched?

Artemis 2, in which an Orion capsule complete with a human crew will travel to the moon and back without landing, is scheduled for no earlier than May 2024. The mission will be nearly identical to Artemis 1, except for the presence of four NASA astronauts.

When will the Artemis 3 be launched?

Artemis 3 is currently scheduled for no earlier than 2025. The plan is to land a man and a woman near the moon’s south-polar region, where they will spend nearly a full week exploring the lunar surface. The two remaining crew members remain aboard the Lunar Gateway, which will be connected to Orion. If all goes according to plan, an unpressurized rover and other equipment will be placed on the surface before the mission. At least four spacewalks are planned, with priority being given to the search for water ice.

When will the Artemis 4 be launched?

Conceptual view of the Lunar Gateway (left) and the Orion spacecraft. (Image: NASA)

The fourth Artemis mission is currently scheduled for 2026. Four astronauts will be launched to the Lunar Gateway, where they will continue to build out the moon’s outpost. The mission will deliver the European Space Agency’s I-Hab habitat module to Gateway, operating in a unique, nearly rectilinear halo orbit. I-Hab will eventually serve as the primary habitat for astronauts when they remain aboard Gateway. No moon landing is expected during this mission.

When will the Artemis 5 be launched?

Artemis 5 should be launched in 2027. The plan is to send four astronauts to Gateway and two crew members to the lunar surface. The astronauts will once again explore the moon’s Antarctic region.

The mission will also aim to deliver ESA’s ESPRIT (European Fueling, Infrastructure, and Telecommunications Systems) to Gateway. ESPIRIT “will provide improved communications, refueling, and a window somewhat similar to the European-built Cupola Observatory on the International Space Station,” ESA said.

What will happen next?

Artemis missions 6 through 11 are still in the proposal stage, so we’re unsure when they’ll launch or what’s involved.

Artist’s conception of a late Artemis-era mission. (Image: NASA)

That said, the Gateway does require an airlock, so if Artemis 6 gets there, the supply and installation of this part will be a target. These late Artemis missions will expand in both scope and ambition. They will likely include the installation of a lunar habitat, and a pressurized mobile home, among other elements designed to enable humanity’s continued presence on the moon. At this stage, lunar adventures can last as long as 45 days.

Should the Artemis program go as expected, NASA could plan a manned trip to Mars. A crew is scheduled to land on the Red Planet in the late 2030s or early 2040s. Without landing, a human-crewed expedition to Mars and back could take place in 2033 to take advantage of an ideal orbital alignment between Mars and Earth.

And from there, the rest of the solar system awaits. But it all starts with Artemis.

Louise J. Robertson

I've been blogging for over ten years now and have found that writing is one of the best ways to express my thoughts and feelings on various topics. I am a passionate blogger who writes about topics like health and wellness, personal finance, cooking, tech, beauty and fashion, food and cooking, and other lifestyle topics. I love blogging because it's so easy and flexible; I can write anytime and anywhere I want!

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