13 questions about Artemis, the program that will return people to the Moon

The first mission of Artemis is fast approaching and the following are slowly being prepared. Here’s everything there is to know about this ambitious program where the Moon is its destination.

People will return to the Moon! This is the monument behind NASA’s Artemis I mission that will begin this summer 2022. But be patient: if the launch is approaching, this is only the first phase of the longer journey that will cover the U.S. space agency within how many years. .

Here’s everything you need to know about this program that should be back in human exploration on our satellite, more than half a century after the last visit.

What is the Artemis program?

This is a set of three NASA missions, with the ultimate goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2027, according to the latest forecasts. The scientific goal is to conduct rock tests and study the presence of water on our satellite. But also, and above all, to prepare the earth for further exploitation on the Moon, or even the permanent establishment of a lunar station. This will be very useful for more distant programs on Mars.

Where is Artemis’s program?

So far, the first of three missions is in preparation and will soon depart in the summer of 2022, except for one last minute incident. There is still some uncertainty about the preparation stages and tests to be conducted. But NASA has all planned to have 157 fallback dates just in case.

The Space Launch System. // Source: Aubrey Gemignani

Why the name of this program?

Artemis was a Greek goddess, the twin of Apollo. This choice marks NASA’s desire to make the link to the Apollo missions, which enabled the first step to the Moon. In mythology, Artemis is associated with the Moon, as is her brother Apollo on the Sun. In addition, she is a woman: this allows us to assert the fact that women are involved in the mission and walk on our satellite.

First step: the mission of Artemis I

Artemis I is the first phase of NASA’s Artemis program. It was a mission that was supposed to fly in July or August 2022, but there were no passengers. The Orion spacecraft will work as if busy preparing for the next steps, but will only make a round trip to the Moon, for the total 25-day mission.

What is the purpose of the mission of Artemis I?

There is no pure scientific purpose. NASA’s primary goal in this preparatory mission is to verify that its new rocket, the SLS (Space Launch System), is functioning properly. We also need to make sure the connections to the Orion ship are working properly. The spacecraft will have to follow roughly the trajectory of the Apollo 8 mission with two flybys of the Moon at low altitude, a path to the far side before returning to Earth.

When should Artemis I be launched?

Until recently, NASA stalled on launch for February 2022. But a few months before the deadline, a computer problem pushed the American agency to review its plans. From now on, the months of July or August are mentioned, but no further details. The latest tests can always reveal defects and cause a new delay.

What satellites are included in the ship?

Orion will not go alone. It will be accompanied by a dozen small satellites scattered around the Moon. These nano-satellites will take advantage of this journey away from Earth to study the Sun’s magnetic fields, or even see how yeast responds to galaxy radiation. Among the most interesting, is OMOTENASHI, a Japanese CubeSat that must land on the surface of the moon, which will be the first. Also remember, the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout must fly over an asteroid thanks to its solar sail.

Impressions of the actor in Near Earth Asteroid Scout
Impressions of the actor in Near Earth Asteroid Scout. // Source: NASA

Second stage: the mission of Artemis II

With Artémis II, serious things will begin. This time, Orion will move with the four astronauts on board. Direction, the Moon! But the astronauts will not land, they will just spin the Moon before returning after a ten -day journey. Of the crew, there must be at least one astronaut who came from Canada.

What is the purpose of the mission of Artemis II?

Like Artemis I, Artemis II was largely a preparatory mission. The general idea is to test the Orion ship, its performance, the efficiency of its life support system, but also the various communication and navigation systems. Finally, the crew will make sure that re -entry into the atmosphere takes place according to plan.

When should Artemis II launch?

The launch date is relatively unclear and depends on the success or otherwise of Artemis I, but NASA is currently forecasting on the 2024 horizon.

Third and final step: the mission of Artemis III

Artemis III will walk further, as the idea at this time is to take four astronauts, two of whom will step on the Moon. The landing site towards the South Pole was identified where traces of water were discovered, which may be practical to place a base camp there.

They will spend a short week there including, in the program, extra-vehicular outings and samples of lunar rocks. They will then return to Earth at the completion of a mission that will last 25 days.

artemis moon is on a space mission
The launch towards the Moon. // Source: screenshot of On YouTube

What is the purpose of the mission of Artemis III?

The main goal is to successfully complete all the steps, from departure to landing on the Moon to ensure that the procedure is ready for future missions. Then, the crew will have to conduct tests to prepare for a longer stay on the Moon’s surface.

It involves technological aspects in lander use, but purely scientific work to better understand the resources available at the site, especially the availability of water.

Finally, Artemis III also includes some scientific objectives, but they remain relatively general in terms of understanding planetary processes and the history of the Earth-Moon couple.

When should Artemis III be launched?

For now, the goal is to take off in 2027, but there are still many uncertainties due in large part to the success of previous missions.

SLS, HLS, Orion … What are we talking about?

Who said ambitious program in space, says the rocket at its height. And for Artémis, NASA saw things big. All three missions leave Earth aboard the Space Launch System, or SLS. A massive rocket just over 100 meters high that has been under construction for ten years. Its first version, which will make its first flight with Artemis I, is capable of putting 27 tons of cargo into lunar orbit. And it will be enriched for the following flights with higher capacity.

Its main payload is Orion. A spacecraft that can accommodate four passengers that until now had only flown once, in 2014 and no one was inside. An empty test, but Artemis must give him a chance to shine.

For Artémis III, a new challenger will enter the game: HLS. The Human Landing System developed by SpaceX should allow astronauts to connect the Orion spacecraft to the Moon’s surface.

artemis program in moon earth space
Representative of the mission of Artemis. // Source: Wikimedia/CC/Nasa

In the current scenario, the idea is to place the HLS around the Moon and then wait for the Orion with its passengers. The astronauts moved from Orion to HLS to descend to the surface, then ascend and return home. If the Orion is the ship that crosses the oceans, the HLS is the small boat that makes the last meters on dry land.

And then?

The HLS should not wait alone in the moon’s orbit. If everything goes according to plan, the ship should land with the first module of the Lunar Getaway Station.

lunar gateway in space
Impressions of the artist at Lunar Gateway. // Source: Wikimedia/CC/NASA

This station in orbit around the Moon will be needed later to facilitate access to our satellite. Like the International Space Station, it will consist of several modules that will come together gradually. This very ambitious project is in its infancy, but it should be central when the Artemis missions are over.

And the astronauts, in all of this?

It’s too early to know the crews will have a chance to leave for the Moon, but some data is already known. For starters, this is an American-first mission, so clearly expect excessive representation of Stars and Stripes in suits.

That said, it has already been determined that an astronaut from Canada will be part of the Artemis II mission. For Artemis III, it’s a bit vague, but NASA should open up participation to other states. Since Europe is one of the major contributors to the Lunar Gateway program, it should be entitled to at least one mission seat.

From there to say that Thomas Pesquet will fly to the Moon, there is a chasm, but we can always dream!

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10 astronauts of the “Artemis generation”. // Source: NASA

In any case, NASA has announced that the two people stepping on the Moon will be a man and a woman. The agency also stressed its desire to open selection to people from minorities, who are not yet well represented in the galaxy industry.

Ah, and by the way, you can also go to the Moon (almost)

If you also want to be a part of the trip, go to the NASA website to register! To do this, simply enter your name and create a virtual boarding pass. It will be loaded with a USB key that comes with the Orion. So, you will be (somewhat) on the Moon, too.

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