13 questions about Artemis, the program that will return humans to the moon

13 questions about Artemis, the program that will return humans to the moon

Artemis’ first mission is fast approaching, and the next ones are slowly being prepared. Here’s everything you need to know about this ambitious program aimed at the Moon.

Humans will return the moon ! This is the slogan behind the mission Artemis I of NASA is due to take off this summer of 2022. But be patient: if the launch is approaching, it is only the first stage of a much longer journey that will occupy the US space agency for a few years.

Here’s everything you need to know about this program that is supposed to return to 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 in 2027, according to the latest forecasts. The scientific goal is to conduct rock analysis and study the presence of water on our satellite. But also, and above all, to prepare the ground for a greater exploitation of the Moon, or even a permanent establishment of a lunar station. This would be very useful for more remote targeted programs March.

Where is the Artemis program?

At the moment, the first of the three missions is in preparation and is about to take off during the summer of 2022, except for last minute incident. There are still some uncertainties about the preparatory phases and the tests to be performed. But NASA has already planned everything 157 alternate dates just in case.

The space launch system. // Source: Aubrey Gemignani

Why this program name?

Artemis is a Greek goddess, the twin of Apollo. This choice marks NASA’s desire to link up with the Apollo missions, which had allowed the first step to the moon. In mythology, Artemis is associated with the Moon, as is his brother Apollo with the Moon Ground. In addition, she is a woman: this allows us to insist that women participate in the mission and walk on our satellite.

First step: the Artemis I mission

Artemis I is the first stage of the Artemis program from NASA. It is a mission that must take off in July or August 2022, but without passengers. The spaceship Orion it will work as if it is busy preparing for the next steps, but it will only make a round trip to the moon, for a total mission of 25 days.

What is the purpose of the Artemis I mission?

There is no pure scientific goal. The main goal of NASA with this preparatory mission is to check that its new rocket, the SLS (Space Launch System), is working properly. We also need to make sure that the connections to the Orion ship are working properly. The ship will have to follow approximately the trajectory of the Apollo 8 mission with two flights of the Moon at low altitude, a step to the farthest side before a return to Earth.

When should Artemis I be released?

Until recently, NASA had set the launch for February 2022. But a few months before the deadline, a computer problem caused the US agency to revise its plans. From now on the months of July or August are mentioned, but without further details. The latest tests can always reveal defects and cause a new postponement.

Which satellites accompany the ship?

Orion will not go alone. It will be accompanied by a dozen small satellites that will be scattered across the moon. These nano-satellites will take advantage of this trip so far from Earth to study the Sun’s magnetic fields, or even see how yeast reacts to space radiation. Among the most interesting is OMOTENASHI, a Japanese CubeSat that has to land on the lunar surface, which would be the first. Also remember, the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout is supposed to fly over asteroid thanks to its solar sail.

Artistic impression of the asteroid Scout near Earth
Artistic impression of the asteroid Scout near Earth. // Source: NASA

Second stage: the Artemis II mission

With Artemis II serious things begin. This time, Orion will take off with four astronauts on board. Direction, the Moon! But the astronauts will not land, they will simply orbit the moon before returning after ten days of travel. Among the crew, there should be at least one Canadian-born astronaut.

What is the purpose of the Artemis II mission?

Like Artemis I, Artemis II is mostly a preparatory mission. The general idea is to test the Orion spacecraft, its performance, the efficiency of its life support system, but also the different communication and navigation systems. Finally, the crew will ensure that re-entry into the atmosphere occurs as planned.

When should Artemis II be released?

The release date is not yet clear and will depend on the success or failure of Artemis I, but NASA is currently betting on the 2024 horizon.

Third and final step: the Artemis III mission

Artemis III it will go much further, as the idea this time is to bring four astronauts, including two who will step on the moon. The landing site has been located at the South Pole where remains of water were discovered, which could be very handy for setting up a base camp.

They will spend a short week with, in the program, extravehicular outings and samples of lunar rocks. They will then return to Earth at the end of a 25-day mission.

space mission artemis moon nasa
The launch to the moon. // Source: Nasa YouTube screenshot

What is the purpose of the Artemis III mission?

The main goal is to successfully complete all stages, from takeoff to landing on the moon to make sure the method is ready for future missions. Then the crew will have to do analysis to prepare for longer stays on the surface of the moon.

This involves technological aspects with the use of the scarecrow, but also purely scientific work to better understand the resources available in the work, in particular the presence of water.

Finally, Artemis III also has some scientific goalsbut they remain quite general about understanding planetary processes and the history of the Earth-Moon pair.

When should Artemis III be released?

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?

Whoever says ambitious space program, says rocket in its heyday. And for Artemis, NASA saw the big things. The three missions will leave Earth aboard the Space launch system or SLS. A giant rocket just over 100 meters high that has been in development for ten years. Its first version, which will make its first flight with Artemis I, is able to put 27 tons payload in lunar orbit. And it will be enriched for the next flights with increased capacities.

Its main payload is Orion. A spacecraft capable of accommodating four passengers that has so far only flown once, in 2014 and without anyone inside. An empty test, but Artemis should give it a chance to shine.

For Artemis III, a new challenger comes into play: HLS. The human landing system developed by SpaceX should allow astronauts to connect the Orion spacecraft to the surface of the Moon.

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

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

And then ?

HLS is not supposed to wait alone in lunar orbit. If all goes according to plan, the ship should dock with the first module of the lunar escape station.

lunar space door nasa space
Artistic print of the lunar front door. // Source: Wikimedia / CC / NASA

This station orbiting 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 gradually incorporate the set. This ambitious project is still in its infancy, but it should be central once the Artemis missions are completed.

And the astronauts, in all this?

It is still too early to know the crews who will have the opportunity to go to the moon, but some details are already known. For starters, this is a mostly American mission, so obviously we look forward to it an overrepresentation of stars and stripes about combinations.

That being said, it has already been determined that a Canadian astronaut will be part of the Artemis II mission. For Artemis III, it’s a little more vague, but NASA should open up participation to other states. As Europe is a major contributor to the Lunar Gateway program, this should be the case entitle him to at least one seat on the mission.

From here, things get trickier Thomas Pésquet will fly to the moon, there is an abyss, but we can always dream!

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

In any case, NASA has announced that the two people who will step on the moon will be a man and a woman. The agency has also insisted on its desire to open the selection to people from minorities, who are still very underrepresented in the space industry.

Oh, and by the way, you can go to the moon too (almost)

If you also want to be part of the trip, go to the NASA website to register! All you have to do is enter your name and create it a virtual boarding pass. It will charge on a USB stick that will come out with Orion. So you will also be (a little) on the moon.

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