With the Artemis program, NASA is resuming its efforts to return humans to the moon.
Approximately 52 years after the final Apollo mission to land men on the Moon in 1952, NASA had originally scheduled the Artemis 3 mission to land humans on the Moon in 2025. However, as of right moment, the US Government Accountability Office states that the space agency won’t be able to accomplish it until at least 2027. However, given that it has demonstrated more than 50 years ago that it is capable of doing so, why does NASA wish to send people to the Moon once more?
You are in good company if you feel the same way. Barack Obama, a former US president, has the same thoughts. He shifted NASA’s focus from the Moon to Mars and deep space asteroids in 2010 at a speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We have been there before, I must state rather bluntly. There’s a lot more space to discover and discover together with it.
Thirteen years later, with two new leaders in charge of the nation, NASA is back, this time with the Artemis program to return humans to the moon. On November 16, 2022, the unmanned Artemis 1 mission was launched. It then circled the Moon and made a safe return to Earth.
Before Artemis 3 finally sets foot on Mars once more, Artemis 2 will carry out the same mission but with a crew.
What has changed since Obama appeared to have diverted NASA’s focus to other heavenly bodies over that period of time? Or, more precisely, what has changed in the years since the final Apollo mission to bring the Moon back into focus?
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Science Directorate associate administrator at the time, stated it concisely in an interview with the Washington Post in 2022: “It’s important to recognize that we’re going back to a moon that’s really different than the moon we left when we took off during Apollo.” There was a dry moon that night. Our knowledge of the moon has greatly changed.
With the conclusion of the Apollo program, new scientific discoveries have fundamentally altered our view of the Moon. Most importantly, we can now positively identify that there are frozen waters on some regions of the Moon. On Earth’s only natural satellite, the existence of water opens us a universe of possibilities beyond our wildest dreams.
One possibility is that we could establish a long-term human presence on the moon. The oxygen that can be extracted from water will be essential to the astronauts’ survival in that environment. Moreover, hydrogen and oxygen, which can be utilized as rocket fuel, can be produced from water.
The gravitational pull of the Moon is around one-sixth that of Earth. This implies that launching rockets from the Moon will be far simpler and use a lot less fuel than launching them from Earth. In essence, expeditions to Mars and beyond can benefit greatly from using the Moon as a launching pad.
And that is among the main causes for the numerous nations attempting to enhance their capacity for moon exploration. In 2022, China declared its intention to send three more unmanned missions to the Moon this decade. With the Chandrayaan-3 mission, India achieved remarkable accomplishment in landing a lander and a rover close to the South Pole. Currently, ISRO intends to begin a mission that will collect samples from the moon.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States unveiled a ten-year plan this year to create a “lunar economy.” The 10-Year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) capability study by DARPA, which The Economist has called the “agency that shaped the modern world,” aims to build the technological foundation necessary to move toward shareable, scalable, and interoperable systems in order to create services that can be monetized.
In essence, commercial space technology companies and government space agencies will collaborate to build long-term infrastructure on the Moon that will enable both larger expeditions beyond it and exploration missions there.