NASA this week revealed the details of its plan to take astronauts to the moon again by 2024. Comprised of several missions, the Artemis project also intends to build a lunar base and pave the way for us to also step on Mars.
If all goes well, it will be the first time that a human has been on our satellite since 1972 – when the last manned mission of the Apollo project took place. It will also be the first time a woman has stepped on the moon.
Before that, however, some trips will be needed to test the systems, especially the new Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Next year, an unmanned mission will be sent and the first flight with crew should also take place. Only then will we be ready for a lunar landing.
But a small detail is missing: to make the Artemis project happen, NASA needs to raise US $ 28 billion over the next four years (about R $ 154 billion). The amount has already been requested from the United States government.
If the 2024 mission is successful, the next step will be to place people on the lunar surface at least once a year, to build a permanent base on our satellite, in partnership with other space agencies. NASA also plans to install the Gateway, a space station that would orbit the Moon, supporting frequent trips to the surface.
The goal is for all of this structure and experience to allow manned trips to Mars, around 2030. “It’s an aggressive schedule,” said Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, at a news conference on Monday. “Is it possible? Yes. Does everything have to work? Yes. To step on the moon in 2024, we need Congress to approve the budget before Christmas.”
New space suits are also being developed. On the outside, they look like those used by Apollo astronauts, and even include diapers. But they are more flexible, allowing greater mobility in complex tasks while walking, and have a new communication system integrated in the helmet, among other technological upgrades.
Know the details of each stage and the expected dates:
Artemis 1 – November / 2021
The initial mission will consist of the launch of Orion by the SLS. It will be the first flight of the most powerful rocket in the world. The capsule will remain in the Moon’s orbit for three days, with no passengers. It will be a test of your ability to go back and forth between the two bodies.
Artemis 2 – August / 2023
The first manned test of the system. The Orion capsule will take four astronauts for a spin around our satellite. This crew will reach the far side of the Moon, about 400,000 kilometers from Earth – the farthest in deep space that any human being has ever been.
Gravity must have a sling effect, pulling the ship back home. The mission is expected to take about 10 days, testing the ability to make this trip safely for astronauts.
Artemis 3 – 2024
The goal is to “students” (landing on the moon) and land the crew at the satellite’s south pole – a different and more challenging location than the ones visited during the Apollo project. No person, not even a robotic mission, landed there.
To achieve this feat, NASA needs a human landing system (HLS): a spacecraft that takes astronauts between the orbit of the Moon, where Orion will be, and the surface. He should provide life support for the crew for about a week and then take them back to the capsule.
The agency is already working with three private companies (Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX) to develop prototypes.
Finally, we will have a lunar season!
The Artemis 3 mission is just the beginning of NASA’s ambitions. After it, the agency plans to install the Gateway, similar to the International Space Station (ISS), in the orbit of the Moon. Rocosmos, from Russia, Jaxa, from Japan, and CSA, from Canada, have already agreed to participate in the project.
This international cooperation will also build a base at the lunar South pole, to house up to four people. Equipped with two vehicles, it will cover a larger area of field research, with more comfort and safety for astronauts.
NASA is betting that the South Pole of the Moon has greater scientific value, since it probably contains a large amount of frozen water at the bottom of craters never touched by sunlight. Astronauts, or robots, could even use this ice to make rocket fuel. (with hydrogen) and use it for trips back to Earth or deeper space, making exploration easier – from Mars, even.
“A small step for man, a big step for humanity”. The first time the man was on the Moon was in 1969, with the famous Apollo 11 mission, by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Twelve different people have already walked on lunar soil to Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the satellite, in 1972.