NASA has launched the Artemis-1 mission, which will take humans back to the Moon.
What is the objective of the mission?
- It is only a lunar Orbiter mission even though, unlike most Orbiter missions, it has a return-to-Earth target — it is intended to lay the foundations for more complex and ambitious missions.
- The CubeSats it will carry are equipped with instruments meant for specific investigations and experiments, including searching for water in all forms and for hydrogen that can be utilised as a source of energy.
- Biology experiments will be carried out, and the impact of deep space atmosphere on humans will be investigated through the effect on dummy ‘passengers’ on board Orion.
- The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the most powerful ever built, will also be on test for its potential for more ambitious missions in the future.
Why is NASA going back to the Moon?
- There is much science/research to be performed on the moon —
- The rock samples collected by Apollo astronauts decades ago taught scientists a lot about Earth’s and the moon’s geologic history.
- What today’s astronauts can acquire could reveal considerably more.
- NASA has announced 13 potential landing locations (for Artemis), all in the south pole region, where water ice has been proven deep inside craters that never see sunlight.
- The sites are among the best in the world for studying lunar geology and understanding and sampling lunar ice.
- A stepping stone to Mars —
- Mars is at least 200 times farther away from Earth than the moon, creating a huge problem in keeping astronauts safe from things like radiation exposure.
- On these increasingly difficult missions like Artemis, astronauts will live and work in deep space, developing the science and technology needed to transport humans to Mars.
- To mark permanent human presence —
- The main goal of Apollo was to beat the Soviet Union to the moon. It was successful, but there was no long-term plan to establish a permanent human presence there.
- Artemis may witness a slow transition into a permanent human presence on the moon.
- It has the potential to stimulate the development of new technologies —
- According to NASA, commercial items derived from the space agency’s research contribute between $100 million and $1 billion to the US economy each year.
- Artemis has the potential to stimulate similar breakthroughs (like a reusable spacecraft) and boost the economy.
- It has the ability to inspire future engineers and scientists —
- The Apollo lunar mission is reported to have inspired thousands of new engineers and scientists.
- NASA will receive virtually real-time video from the moon’s surface via Artemis, which may excite those who are not considering careers in space exploration or engineering.