NASA plans to send the next man and first woman to the lunar surface by the year 2024 under its Artemis program. The last time NASA sent humans to the Moon was in 1972, during the Apollo lunar mission.
- Under this program, NASA will demonstrate new technologies, capabilities, and business approaches that will be needed for the future exploration of Mars.
- The program is divided into three parts,
- Artemis I: It is most likely to be launched next year and involves an uncrewed flight to test the SLS and Orion spacecraft.
- Artemis II: It will be the first crewed flight test and is targetted for 2023.
- Artemis III: It will land astronauts on the Moon’s the South Pole in 2024.
- For NASA, going to the moon involves various elements such as:
- Exploration ground systems (the structures on the ground that are required to support the launch),
- Space Launch System (SLS), Orion (the spacecraft for lunar missions),
- Gateway (the lunar outpost around the Moon), lunar landers (modern human landing systems) and
- Artemis generation spacesuits
- NASA’s new rocket called SLS will send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft a quarter of a million miles away from Earth to the lunar orbit.
- Once the astronauts dock Orion at the Gateway (small spaceship in orbit around the moon) they will be able to live and work around the Moon, and from the spaceship, will take expeditions to the surface of the Moon.
- The astronauts going for the Artemis program will wear newly designed spacesuits, called Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU.
- These spacesuits feature advanced mobility and communications and interchangeable parts that can be configured for spacewalks in microgravity or on a planetary surface.
- In 1959, the Soviet Union’s uncrewed Luna 1 and 2 became the first rover to visit the Moon. Since then, seven nations have followed suit.
- Before the US sent the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, it sent three classes of robotic missions between 1961 and 1968. After July 1969, 12 American astronauts walked on the surface of the Moon until 1972.
- Together, the Apollo astronauts brought back over 382 kg of lunar rock and soil back to Earth for study.
- Then in the 1990s, the US resumed lunar exploration with robotic missions Clementine and Lunar Prospector. In 2009, it began a new series of robotic lunar missions with the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS).
- In 2011, NASA began the ARTEMIS (Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence, and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun) mission and in 2012, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory spacecraft studied the Moon’s gravity.
- The European Space Agency, Japan, China, and India have sent missions to explore the Moon. China landed two rovers on the surface, which includes the first-ever landing on the Moon’s far side in 2019.
- ISRO recently announced India’s third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3, which will comprise a lander and a rover.
Source: Indian Express