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  • Writer's pictureJulia Caputo

Returning to the Moon with Artemis

“That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

These famous words were spoken by Neil Armstrong after he and Buzz Aldrin were the first to walk on the surface of the moon on Apollo 11 in 1969. Since then, a total of twelve other astronauts have followed in their footsteps on the surface on the moon in the other Apollo missions, which ended in 1972. Since then, no one has returned to walk the Moon's Surface, but multiple initiatives have flown by and orbited it.

NASA, in partnership with international and commercial groups, will be returning there to land the next man and the first woman on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis Program, which will establish sustainable space exploration and allow us to learn a great deal about the moon’s surface. Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo, is the Greek goddess of the hunt and she is often symbolized by the Moon, which is a perfect symbol for NASA’s fervent hunt for knowledge. The knowledge acquired from this mission will propel NASA’s efforts to send manned missions to Mars, which many consider to be the next “giant leap”.

The Artemis Initiative will consist of three missions, each with unique goals and innovative technologies. The first mission of the series, Artemis I is an unmanned, approximately 3 week test flight around the moon, set to launch in November of 2021. Its purpose is to set a foundation of deep space exploration by collecting information, ensuring the success of their technologies and preparing for manned flights. It will put the new Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft to the test. According to NASA, the Space Launch System is “the most powerful rocket in the world”. It is equipped with a pair of five segment boosters and four RS-25 engines capable of more thrust than any of their previous projects and it can carry more than 27 tons of cargo. The Space Launch System will be launched from the recently updated spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along with the Orion spacecraft. The Orion is designed to house the crew in later missions. It was designed to withstand extreme environmental stresses, allowing it to “stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before” (NASA). Artemis I will fly thousands of miles beyond the Moon and during flight it will deploy multiple small satellites, called CubeSats to perform experiments and collect vital data.

An artist's depiction of the Orion Spacecraft and Space Launch System (Credit: NASA)

Utilizing the information gathered in the first mission, Artemis II is set to launch in 2022 with a crew on board to perform “a number of tests designed to demonstrate critical functions, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space” (NASA). The crew will make two orbits around the Earth, while collecting data, before continuing on towards the Moon. They will go around the back side of the Moon, creating a figure eight shape before returning to Earth. As they round the backside of the Moon, they will use the force of the Moon’s gravitational field as a “slingshot” rather than engine propulsion (NASA).

An artist's depiction of the Gateway outpost in orbit (Credit: NASA)

After gaining a better understanding of what types of maneuvers and environments the spacecraft can handle, Artemis III will be launched by 2024 with the goal of landing astronauts on the surface of the Moon and setting up permanent infrastructure to use in the future. The Human Landing System Program is an important part of this goal. Created in a partnership between NASA and a number of private companies, these systems are designed to “dock with Orion or the Gateway in lunar orbit and take crew safely to the lunar surface and back to lunar orbit” (NASA). Gateway will be an outpost in orbit around the Moon that is to be assembled incrementally in space. This will be an essential part of the future of deep space exploration because having infrastructure such as refueling depots and servicing platforms will allow missions to venture further into space. At Gateway, there will also be experiments such as researching how organisms react to living in this harsh environment. After Artemis III, NASA plans to send a mission to the Moon approximately every year. Eventually, NASA and their astronauts will be able utilize the resources there to venture to Mars and beyond. Overall, this campaign will do a great deal to foster scientific exploration and capture the imagination of the world.


About the author:

Hi, my name is Julia Caputo and I am a research intern here at EWAAB. I have always been amazed by science and technology. I am a biomedical engineering student from Queens, New York and I am entering my third year at Stevens Institute of Technology. On campus, I am passionately involved in the Society of Women Engineers and Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity. I recently got my Emergency Medical Technician license and I hope to go to medical school.

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