This Monday, August 29, the Artemis 1 rocket will take off from Florida. A first step in a long process that should lead NASA to set foot on the Moon again before aiming for Mars (photo taken on August 25 by satellite images).
SPACE – This is the first stage of a great project that will take place this Monday, August 29, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the launch of the Artemis 1 mission. Because Artemis is the name of the American program that returns to the Moon, one of NASA’s top priorities for decades to come.
Her name was chosen in echo of the Apollo program, having carried the only 12 men to ever walk on the Moon, between 1969 and 1972. Artemis, in Greek mythology, is the twin sister of Apollo (” Apollo in English) and a goddess associated with the Moon.
After takeoff on Monday, the idea is to send the first woman and the first person of color to the lunar surface, and then prepare -final objective- a first trip to Mars. The HuffPost takes stock of these missions of increasing difficulty that mark the entrance into a new era of space conquest.
- The first flights of Artemis
Set to lift off on Monday, the Artemis 1 mission is due to test NASA’s new giant rocket, called the SLS, as well as the Orion capsule installed on top of it without a crew. The goal is to ensure that they can transport astronauts safely in the future.
Orion will go into orbit around the Moon before returning to Earth.
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Then, in 2024, Artemis 2 will carry astronauts to the Moon, but without landing there, as Apollo 8 did in 1968. The composition of the crew is due to be announced by the end of the year. We already know that a Canadian will be part of it and thus become the first Canadian citizen to go into deep space.
- 2025 or 2026 before landing on the Moon again?
This third mission can be compared to Apollo 11 (July 1969) as it will be the first in the program to bring astronauts to the Moon. They are expected to reach the South Pole of the Moon for the first time, where the presence of water in the form of ice has been confirmed, and not near the equator as during Apollo.
Artemis 3 is officially scheduled for 2025, but according to an independent public audit, it should actually take place in 2026 “at the earliest.” Since Artemis 3, NASA wants to launch around one mission per year.
To do this, NASA has selected the private company SpaceX to build the Artemis 3 lander. Specifically, this lander will move between the Orion capsule and the lunar surface: once in orbit around the Moon, the capsule will dock with ship, shipped separately. upstream, which will then be responsible for lowering the astronauts to the surface and then reassembling them. It is then aboard Orion that they will return to Earth.
This lander will be a version of the “Starship” spacecraft, which has so far only performed suborbital tests. To reach Earth orbit, it will need to be propelled by the “Super Heavy” first-stage rocket, also under development.
And before you can go to the Moon, you will have to refuel by refueling directly in space from another “Starship”, previously loaded with fuel. A highly dangerous transfer never tested before. For the continuation of the Artemis program, NASA has launched a new tender with other companies for the development of additional landers.
- A space station to point further
The Artemis program also includes the construction of a station in orbit around the Moon, called the Gateway.
The launch of the first two elements (a habitation module and the propulsion system) is planned for the end of 2024 at the earliest and will be carried out using a SpaceX “Falcon Heavy” rocket.
The following modules will be launched by SLS at the same time as Orion and his crew, tasked with assembling them at their destination. The astronauts will stay there between 30 and 60 days. Eventually, a lander will dock there to allow them to land on the Moon from the station. Gateway will also serve as a stopover before future trips to Mars.
- The ultimate goal: Mars
Because, paradoxically, the star that really lies at the heart of the Artemis program is not the Moon, but Mars.
NASA thus wants to test, thanks to the Artemis program, the technologies necessary to send the first humans to the red planet: new combinations, a vehicle to move around, a mini-power plant, the use of lunar water, etc.
The creation of a base on the surface of the Moon is planned. In fact, the idea is to learn how to establish a lasting human presence in deep space, but not too much. In case of trouble, the Moon is only a few days away. March, several months at least.
See also in the HuffPost: NASA will send 2 more helicopters to Mars
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