Artemis Program: The Next Chapter in NASA’s Lunar Expeditions

Previously known as Exploration Mission-1, the Artemis Program will have a new generation witness the first crewed lunar landing mission since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Back in 1969, the world watched Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crew land on the moon with complete awe and admiration. The lunar expedition came to be known as one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind. Now, as we enter the new age of space exploration, NASA is eyeing the next great step for mankind — towards Mars.

Before that, the space administration has developed the Artemis Program as a stepping stone to pave the way for human exploration of the red planet. The Artemis program was conceptualized in 2017 in efforts to revive and strengthen the U.S. space program and is set to see the first uncrewed test mission, Artemis I, take off no later than June of 2022. Despite the program’s long-term goal to eventually achieve Mars landing, NASA has set short-term goals for the program to establish an international expedition team and sustainable human exploration on the Moon.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard (Source: NASA)

The star of the Artemis Programme would be none other than the Space Launch System (SLS). The colossal deep space vehicle is designed to not just carry astronauts to the Moon and beyond, but it is also capable of ferrying cargo and equipment needed to extend the crew’s stay in space. NASA aims to launch the maiden voyage of the Artemis program, Artemis I, by June 2022 to test the integrated system of the SLS and the Orion spacecraft, and gather engineering data throughout the mission necessary for future flights.

Space Launch System (SLS) (Source: NASA)

In this test flight, the Orion will be boosted into lunar space and will enter a retrograde lunar orbit, covering a total distance of more than 1.4 million miles before returning back to Earth. The topmost objective of this uncrewed mission is to assess the Orion’s heat shield performance (withstanding 5,000 Fahrenheit or 2,760 degrees Celsius) and the spacecraft’s capacity to handle high speed lunar velocity reentry.

Trajectory of Artemis I mission (Source: NASA)

The Artemis I mission has also been tasked to deploy CubeSats produced by NASA, and other international and academic developers to perform scientific research and technological presentations for the benefit of deepening our knowledge of deep space.

Artemis I is only the beginning. With confidence gained from the first journey, Artemis II mission will see a crewed Orion spacecraft traveling to the lunar environment and Artemis III will put the first woman and the next man on the Moon again.

Orion spacecraft being prepared for thermal test (Source: NASA)

As part of sustainable space exploration, NASA has also envisioned the Gateway — an outpost in the lunar orbit that will act as a habitation module to support astronauts visiting the moon, function as a communication hub and host docking stations for vehicles and future modules. The primary components of the Gateway, Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), will be integrated on ground and have been scheduled to be launched together in 2023.

Illustration of the Gateway orbiting the Moon (Source: NASA)

There is no doubt the moon landing of the new generation will be the stepping stone for a Mars landing soon. This exciting new expedition has opened up a whole new possibility for the first time of taking our footsteps beyond the Moon in exploring the final frontier.

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