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Back to the Moon We Go

History will soon be made. Since Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in 1969, NASA has been collecting data about Earth’s lone neighbor and learning more and more about the planet. It’s been 52 years since then, and in recent years the buzz of society has slowly shifted towards putting humankind on Mars. However, while NASA is working towards that goal, NASA has been working continuously to return to the Moon. Humans have not been to the Moon since 1972 because of costs and how dangerous space shuttles are. However, after much waiting and wondering what was going on, the new plan to put the next man and woman on the Moon is finally in effect. Artemis, the mission’s name, is preparing to launch in 2023 to return humans to space. Artemis is Apollo’s twin sister in Greek Mythology, so it seems fitting to have the name of the goddess of the Moon to send astronauts into space for the first time in over 50 years. This is a significant step forward for NASA and space exploration and the most notable thing NASA has done since the ISS launched into space.

Launching from Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the world will finally see NASA’s Orion, not a Space X rocket that took Elon Musk into space, launch into space for a test run on February 12th of next year. That will be called the Artemis I mission. For Artemis I, the as-yet-unflown spacecraft and rocket will launch, orbit the Earth, and then send Orion and the ESM to enter an elliptical orbit of the Moon that will see them get to within 62 miles above its surface and about 40,000 miles beyond it. That’s farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown. It seems like NASA is trying to impressively to one-up Space X. If all goes well, not only will NASA successfully one-up its “friendly” competition, NASA will launch Artemis II with a fully loaded crew, will launch a few years after, and take humans to the Moon for the first time in a very long time.

First, the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft are going through a hot fire test, ensuring the spacecraft can survive Earth’s atmosphere when returning to Earth. Once that is complete, NASA will send Artemis I, slated for February 12th of next year, to fly around the Moon to check performance, life support, and communication capabilities. This is good considering we don’t want another Challenger (yes, we still all remember).

NASA hasn’t made any decisions for Artemis III or Artemis IV, but those missions will send a crew aboard Orion to dock to the Gateway, where two crew members can stay aboard the spaceship in orbit while two go to the surface. After that, the outpost will evolve, with new modules added by international partners, allowing crew members to conduct increasingly longer lunar missions. Who knows? It could one day become the ISS 2. If it does, it could double the number of people in space, and NASA could begin to utilize the Moon for other purposes. We could even launch rockets from the Moon and poison the Earth a little less. That would be good, considering all of the climate change going around.

Throughout the Artemis program, robots and humans will search for and potentially extract resources such as water that can be converted into other usable resources, including oxygen and fuel. Then, by fine-tuning precision landing technologies and developing new mobility capabilities, astronauts will explore unknown regions of the Moon and travel farther distances beyond Earth’s neighbor, most notably Mars. The way it’s going, that mission will be called Ares since NASA loves its Greek gods. Whatever it’s called, the future looks very bright for space exploration.

- Paschal N

Sources From Today:

Carter, Jamie. "Artemis 1: In 100 Days NASA's Long-Awaited Moon Mission Could Blast-Off. Here's Everything You Need To Know." Forbes, 4 Nov. 2021, Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.

Inclán, Bettina, and Matt Rydin. "NASA Publishes Artemis Plan to Land First Woman, Next Man on Moon in 2024." Edited by Sean Potter. NASA, 20 Sept. 2020, Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.

Royal Museums Greenwich. "Why did we stop going to the Moon?" Royal Museums Greenwich, 2021, Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.

NASA. Humanity's Return to the Moon. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.

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