Next week it’s time. Then the first step is taken on the new moon mission. No longer Apollo, but Artemis. The missile has been tested, the launch site is ready and I can make Artemis in the air. Still unmanned, to make preparations for two flights later: because then people will go to the moon again. But, why would we go to the moon again and why only now?
We all know the story of the moon landing. On July 21, 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon after emerging from the Apollo 11 spacecraft. More will follow after Armstrong, but not much more. 12 men walked on the moon and the last step was taken in 1972. A footprint that still exists today, because conditions on the moon are just like them: no crazy winds, no earthquakes: just complete silence.
The intention now is that footsteps will be added soon, but not only from men. In communicating about the Artemis missions, NASA is primarily focused on this dual goal: to put the first woman on the moon and put the first black person on the moon. Very important missions, because these people can be great role models for young people who may also want to do something with science and technology. However, there are multiple reasons for returning to the moon on these missions named after the Greek goddess of the moon.
The Artemis program is not cheap: from 2012 to 2025, the project will cost about 93 billion dollars. So it is definitely for more purposes. One big and clear goal is to do research. We’ve done relatively little space research on other planets and moons. The moon is rich in science and there is still a lot to discover. For example, through samples from the surface of the Moon, we can learn more about the 4.5 billion years of our solar system’s existence.
In addition, NASA hopes to create some kind of training base from the moon. The idea is to build some kind of bunkers or huts there and learn more about what it’s like to fly in deep space. Training for any other missions within our solar system. On the other hand, there are also many “side effects” that are very valuable for lunar missions. Think, for example, of the innovations and technological developments that could result from this. NASA plans to build some kind of web on the moon anyway. But the intention is also that these lunar plans give us a better idea of how to deal with our planet. The Moon shouldn’t be a target, the Earth should actually be the target.
In line with this, there is also a very logical connection between the Earth and the Moon: it was very possible that stones would have ended up on the Moon from Earth in the past. Stones that may contain minerals tell us more about the origin of life on Earth. The question is, of course, whether they are really there and whether we will ever find them. The Moon is actually too big for a group of dozens of people to comb: it’s about a quarter the size of the Earth. On the other hand, technological advances can do their work here: by spreading thieves, we may encounter those ‘we’ pieces early on. Although we must bear in mind that it is exposed to cosmic rays.
There is also some unfinished business on the moon. For example, the goal was to use Apollo to measure the amount of internal heat escaping from the Moon. However, this experiment failed, so we hope to get a second chance with Artemis to learn more about this mystery inside the moon. At least if you could use instruments on the Moon, it might be a very quiet moon: still an unknown place in space where it sometimes reaches 120 degrees above zero, then again at 170 degrees below zero. You get that with no atmosphere and no air… which is also something that is a huge challenge for the astronauts especially the safety of these brave people and any upcoming missions.
For Artemis III, 13 potential sites have already been explored by NASA. It’s all kinds of different geological sites that NASA hasn’t visited before. Each site has a flat area where there are 6.5 consecutive days of sunlight: this allows the astronauts to stay at that site for a week. He also looks at the chemical effects of water: If water ice from the moon could be used, it could mean people would stay on the moon for a longer period of time. To learn more about that, NASA will launch a rover called VIPER in 2024 to see the possibilities. Then it is up to the astronauts to investigate this matter further.
How do we go to the moon? The vehicle to the moon is Orion, which flies thanks to the Space Launch System. A rocket with a length of more than 100 meters in which liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen are burned to increase speed. Artemis I uses recycled engines that have already completed at least three space shuttle missions. In all, it provides 3.9 million kilograms of thrust to reach the moon. The interesting thing is that Orion cannot land on the Moon: By the time the Artemis III mission begins, a SpaceX spacecraft is launched into orbit to take astronauts to the Moon. So switch.
Not only Americans
With all the tension surrounding Artemis, you’ll almost forget that the moon doesn’t belong to NASA. There are also space organizations from other parts of the world planning the moon. For example, both India and China participate in lunar plans. There is even an Israeli non-profit organization working on the moon, though it recently caused a painful meltdown. However, he keeps trying. And why does NASA keep trying? This is mainly because it provides so many opportunities. Short-lived: The Apollo missions cost 3 percent of the United States’ federal budget. So it was always a question of money that made it take so long before we got back to the moon.
August 29th is today: Artemis I will take off on NASA’s first lunar mission in many years. We’ll have to live on that for a while: Artemis II will follow in May 2024 and Artemis III is expected in 2025.
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