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“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” ~ Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the Moon
We have discovered black holes . We have seen the dark side of the Moon. We have found galaxies existing millions of light years away. Yet, the grandeur of landing on the Moon inspires ordinary people, a marked beginning of humankind’s journey into outer space. The Artemis project is the newest initiative of NASA, which aims to send humans back to the Moon by 2026, as stated by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin. Buckle up, because we’re heading to the Moon!
Introducing artemis: a mission to the moon
A key difference between the Apollo mission—which ran from 1961 to 1972—and the Artemis project is the aim. While both these missions were designed to study the lunar surface by means of manual efforts and newer tech, with the new project NASA aims to establish a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.
Why should we return to the moon?
Returning to the Moon is an important step for several reasons. Firstly, it provides us a chance to have new takes on how we view the Moon’s formation, geology, and history. Who knows; with new technology, new findings may negate old theories or help sprout new hypotheses. By studying the Moon, scientists can gain valuable insights into Earth’s own past. Additionally, the Moon acts as a stepping stone for future missions to Mars and other destinations in the solar system. Exploring and learning to live on the Moon will help us develop the necessary technologies and knowledge for deep space exploration.
Stages of the artemis project
A project as ambitious as this needs to have multiple stages and steps which will be finally pieced together. This latest, greatest feat in cosmic travel has been divided into three stages:
The first phase is basically an unmanned test run of the Orion spacecraft atop the space launch system . This phase is more like a “quality check”—the communication system, and the deep space navigation system , will be checked. This is a certification of the spacecraft’s ability to function outside the Earth’s orbit, and in the Moon’s orbit too. The final part of this mission involves the return of the astronauts through the re-entry of the Orion spacecraft.
The Orion spacecraft passed all the tests thrown at it in Artemis 1 with flying colors, as demonstrated by its successful flyby along the lunar orbit and eventual splashdown into the Pacific Ocean on 11th December, 2022. The spacecraft completed this mission in 25.5 days and has set the record for traveling the farthest in outer space for a spacecraft designed for a human crew, surpassing Apollo 13’s record distance of 400,000 kilometers (nearly 250,000 miles) by another 30,000 kilometers (almost 20,000 miles).
We may not have had astronauts in the Orion, but NASA devised a cool way to test out astronaut gear. Dubbed “moonikins,” these were mannequins that wore the spacesuits that the crew will wear in manned missions.
However, the path to this success was never easy. The launch was called off four times before finally launching on November 16, 2022!
The first crewed mission of an Artemis spacecraft will send astronauts for another flyby past the Moon but will not land on its surface. This is the farthest any human has traveled into space, orbiting the Moon 130 km (81 miles) above the surface before circling back to Earth. This part of the mission is scheduled to take place in 2024.
The climax of the Artemis project, Artemis 3, aims to land two astronauts on the Moon, something that was last achieved five decades ago. One of them will become the first woman astronaut to land on the Moon. This phase was scheduled for 2025; however, at the current pace, it seems that the landing might be pushed to 2026.
After the quick succession of steps that will send humans to the Moon again, the last phase comes after quite a time gap. Besides the initial stages, the Artemis project envisions a sustainable presence on the Moon. This is also the most challenging step of all. The Artemis 4 mission will launch a Lunar Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the Moon. The Gateway will serve as a staging area for future missions to the Moon and Mars. The gateway will facilitate international collaboration, enabling astronauts from various nations to work together and propel our knowledge of the Moon and the universe forward. This cosmic base camp will open up avenues for further space travel.
With each stage, from testing the spacecraft to landing humans on the lunar surface, Artemis pushes the boundaries of human achievement. It is a leap calculated with exact scientific equations and models; and yet, so much dependent on the sheer belief we have in ourselves. Setting up a cosmic base camp will set us en route to new ventures on Mars and beyond.
And none of this is happening “in a galaxy far, far away…” The next stage of the space age is finally here!
Grade Score: 9.6
Black holes: Extremely dense objects in space with such strong gravitational pull that nothing, not even light, can escape from them.
Space Launch System: A powerful rocket system developed by NASA to launch crewed missions beyond Earth’s orbit.
Deep Space Navigation System: A system of instruments and methods used for spacecraft navigation and positioning in deep space.
Re-entry: The process of returning a spacecraft safely from space to Earth’s atmosphere and landing it.
Flyby: A maneuver where a spacecraft passes close to a celestial body without landing on its surface.
Splashdown: The landing of a spacecraft in water, typically an ocean or sea.
Space Age: The historical period characterized by significant advancements in space exploration and technology.