Explained: Everything You Need To Know About Artemis 1
But why are we going back to the Moon anyway? We went there, didn’t we?
Our understanding of the Moon today is very different from that of the era of Apollo. Once thought to be dry, scientists have found that the Moon has extensive deposits of water ice, particularly at the south pole, near which Artemis 3 is about to land. There, water ice has accumulated over billions of years from various sources, kept stable in permanently shaded regions (PSR). However, at the edge of some craters in the polar region, the sun shines almost constantly. It’s the perfect combination of power for solar panels and water for drinking, producing oxygen, and making rocket fuel. In 2024, NASA will send a rover called VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) to this region to explore what is sure to be a spectacular landscape.
Finding water on the Moon has the potential to be a game-changer. NASA’s current mantra for crewed exploration is “Moon to Mars.” By using water ice on the Moon, NASA hopes to learn how to “live off the land” in an environment with lots of radiation, large temperature differences, unpleasant dust, and more – a land of training to live on Mars.
Some advocate that astronauts settle in pits of lunar lava, safe from many of these dangers. It would be a high-tech throwback to our species’ cave-dwelling roots as we plan forays into the Red Planet, perhaps fueled by lunar ice turned into rocket fuel.
But NASA’s goals aren’t just regulations, they’re also scientific. The Moon’s water holds clues to our solar system’s ancient past, and the surface offers places for special types of work. The far side is perfect for radio astronomy. In the shelter of Earth, it’s very, very quiet there.
NASA is not alone in this rush for the Moon. Private companies send robotic missions. And Russia and China are collaborating on plans for a moon base and a space station. China is moving forward, having demonstrated real capabilities to develop a serious space exploration program. It’s not quite the Cold War, but it has caught Washington’s attention.
How do we do this?
With rockets, of course!
But seriously, NASA is partnering with other countries and agencies, including ESA, whose service module for Orion serves as the spacecraft’s power and support vehicle. NASA touts its global partnerships, and several countries have signed the Artemis Accords, pledging to cooperate and carefully manage the Moon and space environment.
Not everyone thinks that’s enough to prevent overuse, unnecessary scarring of an ancient world, or even conflict and hostilities with other players. Many political and legal reflections are underway.
Proponents believe that Artemis may be our first baby step – if not giant leaps – to becoming a multiplanetary species while benefiting our homeworld through innovation and perhaps even showing us more ways. co-operatives to live together.
How to follow the mission?
This is the easiest question of all. Your best bet is NASA TV, which will begin coverage a few hours before the first launch window. You can find it on the NASA website and on YouTube. NASA will also cover Orion’s first outbound trajectory burn later tonight; a full schedule of scheduled programming is on the NASA site.