Artemis: The Biggest Program of the Decade

Photo Credit: (NASA)

In 1969, the world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. The Apollo mission, which brought humans to the moon for the first time, was a remarkable achievement that captured the imagination of people around the globe. Now, more than 50 years later, NASA is once again looking to the moon with the Artemis mission.

The Artemis mission has ambitious goals, including landing the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024. The mission also aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028, which would require the development of new technologies and infrastructure. This would pave the way for future missions to Mars and beyond.

About Artemis:
The Artemis mission is a collaborative effort between NASA and its commercial and international partners. The mission will use the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is the most powerful rocket ever built, to launch the Orion spacecraft into orbit around the moon. The spacecraft will carry astronauts, equipment, and supplies to the lunar surface. {alertInfo}

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NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, after being rolled out to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Artemis I mission is the first integrated test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and supporting ground systems. Launch of the uncrewed flight test is targeted for no earlier than Aug. 29. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

On November 16 2022, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from NASA finally roared to life, launching an unmanned Orion spacecraft on its historic orbit of the Moon. It is currently the most powerful operational rocket in the world and the most powerful rocket ever built, launching with 8.8 million pounds of thrust. The Artemis program, which aims to put a space station called Gateway in lunar orbit and land people on the Moon later this decade, finally gave the space agency its mega-rocket.

The SLS rocket is a two-stage launch vehicle that stands at a towering height of 322 feet (98 m) and weighs more than 5.75 million pounds (2.9 million kg) at liftoff. The first stage of the rocket is powered by four RS-25 engines, which are recycled space shuttle engines that have been upgraded to provide more thrust. The second stage of the rocket is powered by four RL10 engine, which is designed to operate in the vacuum of space.

One of the key advantages of the SLS rocket is its ability to carry heavy payloads into space. The rocket can lift more than 59,000 pounds (26,700 kg) into lunar orbit, which is more than any other rocket currently in existence. This means that the SLS can carry all the necessary equipment to support human missions to the Moon and beyond, including habitats, rovers, landers, and scientific instruments.

There are 11 Planned Missions (so far)

Here is the current planned timeline for the missions (at the time of writing)
Photo Credit: (Wikipedia)

Artemis 7 - Artemis 11 are planned well into the future and aren't as relevant for us as of now so I'll skip over them. 

Artemis I

Photo Credit: (NASA)

I'm sure you've heard about Artemis 1. NASA successfully launched Artemis 1 at 01:47 a.m. EST (0647 GMT) on November 16 2022, from Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  

NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket took an uncrewed deep space exploration system — the Orion spacecraft — around the moon and back again in an effort to test the Orion module, SLS rocket as well as ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center, laying the foundations for subsequent missions within the Artemis program. 

The Orion capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California at 12:40 p.m. EST on December 11 2022. Bringing a successful end to NASA's historic Artemis 1 moon mission after a monumental 1.4 million mile (2.3 million kilometre) journey. 

Artemis II

Photo Credit: (NASA)

Artemis 2, scheduled to launch in November 2024, will mark the first time in over half a century that NASA sends humans to the Moon. Although the agency has previously sent astronauts to the lunar surface during the Apollo program, Artemis 2 will not land on the Moon or orbit it. Instead, the mission will involve a test flight where a crew of four will travel once around the Moon and return to Earth. 

NASA is using this mission to test new technologies, systems, and procedures that have not been tested in a spaceflight environment before. This will provide valuable data to inform NASA's future plans to explore the Moon and Mars under the Artemis program. Due to safety considerations, a lunar fly-around was deemed the best option for the first crewed Artemis mission.

NASA is testing a variety of new technologies and systems during the Artemis 2 mission, including:

 - The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft that will transport the crew to the Moon and back.
 - The Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), a more powerful upper stage for the SLS rocket that will increase the rocket's capability to carry heavy payloads.
 - The new lunar spacesuit, known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), which is designed to provide greater mobility and flexibility than previous spacesuits.
 - The Lunar Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a stopping point for crewed missions to the lunar surface.
 - The Human Landing System (HLS), a new spacecraft that will land astronauts on the Moon and return them to lunar orbit.
 - Advanced communication systems that will provide real-time communication between the astronauts and mission control on Earth.
 - Radiation sensors and other instruments to study the radiation environment in deep space and on the lunar surface.

and many many more other new technologies.

NASA unveiled the names of the 4 astronauts that will fly abroad Artemis 2 on April 3rd 2023.

The crew of NASA’s Artemis II mission (left to right): NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch, Reid Wiseman (seated), Victor Glover, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen.
Photo Credit: (NASA)

“The Artemis II crew represents thousands of people working tirelessly to bring us to the stars. This is their crew, this is our crew, this is humanity's crew,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Hammock Koch, and CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen, each has their own story, but, together, they represent our creed: E pluribus unum – out of many, one. Together, we are ushering in a new era of exploration for a new generation of star sailors and dreamers – the Artemis Generation.” 

Artemis III

Photo Credit: (NASA)

Artemis 3 is the third scheduled flight of the Artemis program. The mission aims to put humans on the moon around 2025, assuming that previous missions of the Artemis program go to plan.

Like the uncrewed Artemis 1 and crewed Artemis 2, this mission aims to launch the gigantic Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket and Orion spacecraft. For landing on the moon, the crew will use SpaceX's Starship, a system that the Californian company is developing right now for crewed human missions.

Artemis IV

Photo Credit: (NASA)

Artemis 4 is the fourth scheduled flight of the Artemis program. The mission will launch four astronauts on a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and an Orion to the Lunar Gateway and the second lunar landing of the Artemis program.

As of March 2023, Artemis 4 is scheduled to launch no earlier than September 2028.

Artemis V

Artemis 5 is the fifth scheduled flight of the Artemis program. The mission will launch four astronauts on a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and an Orion to the south pole of the Moon. In addition, Artemis V will also deliver two new elements to the Gateway Space Station.

As of March 2023, Artemis 5 is scheduled to launch no earlier than September 2029.

Artemis VI

Artemis 6 is the sixth scheduled flight of the Artemis program. The mission will complete lunar landing with the delivery of the Gateway Airlock Module.

As of March 2023, Artemis V is scheduled to launch no earlier than September 2030.

Artemis Facts & Figures

Artemis is the mythological Greek goddess of the Moon and twin sister of Apollo. The link with the mission which first launched humans to the Moon over 50 years ago therefore is clear.

The crewed spacecraft, meanwhile, is called Orion. Orion is one of the most recognisable constellations in the sky, while in Classical mythology Orion is the hunting companion of Artemis.

Facts & Figures

• Duration: 2017–present
• Launch vehicles: Space Launch System (SLS), Starship, Falcon Heavy, Commercial launch vehicles
• Crew modules: Lunar Gateway, Orion, Human landing system (HLS)
• Cost: US$93+ billion (2012–2025) of which US$53 billion in 2021-2025
• First flight: Artemis 1 (16 November 2022, 06:47:44 UTC)

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