Since Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon in 1969, humans have dreamed of returning. NASA is now carrying out the Artemis 1 mission which aims to repeat the feat of landing humans on the Moon. The first test flight was launched on November 16, and since then, the team in charge of the Orion spacecraft has done nothing but surprise after surprise. After a successful takeoff, the Orion is responding better than expected.
The science and other stuff to know
According to the Greek myth, Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo; hence the new mission of the American Space Agency has been baptized with her name.
Another factor that makes this mission even more worthy of the name is the fact that the Artemis program seeks to vindicate the fight around historical inequalities: it will put the first woman and the first black person on the lunar surface.
The Apollo program ended in 1972, after the successful landing of Apollo 17 and a safe return home for its crew. The technological advances since then are incalculable, so a manned trip to the Moon in this era is a conquest that we can certainly achieve.
The Artemis program consists of a series of manned and unmanned missions to the Moon with the goal of establishing an Artemis Base Camp on the lunar surface and a lunar orbital module: the Gateway. With these elements, we will be able to establish a presence in the natural satellite and learn about life in space, as a pilot test for the great feat: of taking humans to Mars.
The Orion spacecraft lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 7:59 a.m. EST last Wednesday, kicking off the first stage of the program: Artemis I, an unmanned test mission that aims to demonstrate that the spacecraft is safe for takeoff, orbit entry, and re-entry.
Mike Sarafin, mission manager, told AFP: “Today we met to review the performance of the Orion spacecraft… it is exceeding performance expectations.” The spacecraft’s four solar panels, which are about 13 feet (four meters) long, deployed properly and are supplying more energy than expected.
After one orbit around the Moon—reaching just 130 km (81 miles) from the surface—the spacecraft is expected to travel about 63,000 km (40,000 miles) from our satellite before returning to Earth and making the re-entry on December 11.
Building a lunar base will allow us to establish ourselves for the first time on the surface of another world and create a favorable habitat to survive in an extremely hostile environment for us.
The International Space Station is the only system that hosts human life permanently outside of Earth, but at a prudent distance from the planet and within a small-sized module that does not present a possible habitat for more than half a dozen people.
A lunar base is a key and decisive step in our planetary quest to one day inhabit the Red Planet. Since we will be able to practice “terraforming” on the Moon, we will be able to learn how to extract oxygen and water from the surface as well as protect ourselves from radiation and cold. We will also learn how our physiology behaves and evolves under microgravity conditions, and we will be able to better prepare our astronauts to permanently inhabit Mars.
The success of the Artemis I mission is key to the development of the program in terms of timing: the Artemis II mission is scheduled to launch in 2024 and will have a crew of astronauts making an orbital flight behind the far side of the Moon, and returning home. If all goes according to plan, in 2025 Artemis III will launch the decisive mission that will take humanity back to the lunar surface.