- The Artemis program is a space program announced in 2017 that has a goal of exploring the Moon.
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) leads the program.
- The first mission of the Artemis program will fully test NASA’s new vehicles.
In 1969, the Apollo mission took the first humans to the surface of the moon and changed the way we think of space exploration. After a 50-year hiatus, we’re ready to return. Artemis, the mythological sister of Apollo, is set to alter our vision of the solar system yet again.
The Artemis program is the metaphorical green flag for the second space race. With equality, longevity, and advanced research in mind, NASA plans to take humanity further than it’s ever gone.
Continue reading for everything you need to know about the biggest space mission ever proposed.
What is the Artemis Program?
The Artemis program is a space program announced in 2017 that aims to explore the Moon. The program establishes a series of missions that will attempt to send humans back to the surface.
In the long term, the program plans to set up lunar bases in orbit and on the surface to prepare for human missions beyond the Moon and possibly to Mars.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) leads the program with the ESA, JAXA, and CSA as partners. The organization also contracts commercial companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to help design its equipment and vehicles.
The Artemis program currently features three primary missions alongside supplementary launches. These missions include Artemis 1, 2, and 3.
The first mission of the Artemis program will fully test NASA’s new vehicles, the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft.
The objective of the mission is to fly around the Moon, as close as 100 km from its surface and as far as 64,000 km beyond it. The spacecraft will carry a variety of instruments testing the properties of deep space radiation.
The SLS will launch from the Kennedy Space Center as early as the end of 2022.
The second mission of the Artemis program will include four NASA astronauts in a second flyby of the moon.
The mission attempts to record human metrics in a flight to the lunar body, preparing for future manned missions. This mission is the first time American astronauts will have flown on U.S. launch vehicles since the Columbia catastrophe in 2003.
Artemis 2 is scheduled to launch via SLS sometime in the middle of 2024.
The third Artemis mission will send another four-person crew to dock with the Lunar Gateway (more on this below) and spend about four weeks at the module.
The Human Landing System (also more below) will take two astronauts to the surface of the Moon with enough resources to stay for about seven days. This mission will mark the first time humans have set foot on the lunar surface since 1972.
Artemis 3 is planned to launch via SLS no sooner than 2025.
More Artemis Missions
Following the landing on the Moon, subsequent annual missions will send more personnel to visit the celestial body. NASA has up to 11 proposed missions with three in the design phase.
Missions proposals include expanding the habitation model of the Lunar Gateway, delivering a Lunar Terrain Vehicle, and establishing a base on the Moon.
What Are the Artemis Program’s Mission Objectives?
Launching big rockets is not enough to inspire the world in modern history. With a reputation of being a highly exclusive organization, NASA has had to reevaluate its beliefs.
Not only are they making history with a lunar landing, but they’ve announced that the first two astronauts to land on the moon will be a female and a person of color. While NASA must continue to exhibit this diversity in future missions, it is a big step forward for the organization.
The Artemis program isn’t an attempt to mimic the glory of the Apollo missions of the 1970s. With extensive research and advanced technology, NASA plans not only to go back to the moon but to stay there.
The program is structured to have a lunar orbital station established in the next few years and begin delivering modules for a base on the surface of the moon. Astronauts will spend about a week at a time on the Moon, with more astronauts stationed at the Lunar Gateway for a month or more.
NASA plans to use modern research tools to more accurately study the surface of the Moon. The lunar body has traces of water and rare minerals that researchers can use for further scientific development.
The extensive time on the Moon also provides critical data regarding deep space travel. This offers insight toward developing missions beyond the Moon and potentially to Mars.
How Will NASA Get Back to the Moon?
The Orion is the spacecraft that will deliver NASA crewmembers to the Lunar Gateway. It is partially reusable, which helps drop the cost of missions per launch. The Orion can hold up to six astronauts at a time and primarily launches with the Space Launch System.
For other rockets (such as SpaceX’s Starship), the Orion uses a specialized spacecraft adapter. The vehicle also includes a service module (for stabilization and fuel storage) and a launch abort system.
The Lunar Gateway is a small station that will orbit the Moon and will serve a variety of purposes. These include:
- Communications hub for Earth and Moon
- Science laboratory
- Habitation module for government-based astronauts
- A holding area for robots
While the Lunar Gateway won’t permanently house astronauts like the International Space Station, it is a collaboration of several government agencies and will be used internationally.
Human Landing Module
Using the Lunar Gateway as an intermediary, astronauts use the Human Landing Module (HLM) to land on the surface of the Moon. This allows them to come better prepared for surface missions. The HLM will return to the Lunar Gateway after the end of the mission.
Space Launch System
The Space Launch System (SLS) is NASA’s newest super-heavy launch vehicle. The SLS proceeds with the Saturn V, which was retired in 1973. The SLS stands 320-360 feet tall and has a payload capacity of up to 130 tons. The rocket is expendable, meaning its system components are destroyed after use.
Due to its tremendously high launch cost, NASA only plans on using it to send astronauts to the Lunar Gateway. For support missions, such as delivering the space station and future habitation modules, NASA will contract rockets from commercial companies such as SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin.
Artemis Program: Further Reading
Going back to the Moon isn’t a future dream, it’s a current reality. NASA is launching the first mission of the Artemis program this year, and they only get bigger and bolder. To hold you up while you wait for the launch of Artemis 1, check out these space articles below.
- SpaceX vs NASA: Are They Different and Do They Work Together?
- The 10 Most Powerful Rockets Ever Built
- The James Webb Space Telescope: Complete History, Specs, and More
SpaceX’s Starship Rocket: Specs, Size, History, and More