NASA's lunar expedition, the Artemis program, is due to launch in 2024 if all goes to plan. On Thursday, the American space agency shared its report of the expedition, outlining its plans for sustainable lunar exploration, development, and how it relates to the agency's later goal of reaching Mars.
The 13-page report was sent directly to the White House National Space Council and helps to see its short-, mid-, and long-term goals for these space explorations. However, it does not go into specifics.
Humans back to the Moon
NASA's plans for getting humans back to the Moon by 2024 are continuously evolving and coming into shape, and recently underwent some significant changes. However, these were not specifically outlined in the released report.
The Artemis program will not only be an iconic moment in Space history, as no other person has stepped foot on the Moon since the Apollo mission, but it will also pave the way for further space exploration, notably Mars.
"After 20 years of continuously living in low-Earth orbit, we’re now ready for the next great challenge of space exploration – the development of a sustained presence on and around the Moon," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
"For years to come, Artemis will serve as our North Star as we continue to work toward even greater exploration of the Moon, where we will demonstrate key elements needed for the first human mission to Mars."
NASA's report points out that it envisions a four-person crew flying to the Gateway and living aboard it for many months before two of the astronauts make their way to the Moon and the other two remain on the Gateway. The two Moon-based astronauts would later rejoin those on the Gateway, where again they would spend a number of months before returning to Earth. It would be the longest duration human deep space mission that humans have ever witnessed, and would ultimately enable further deep space missions.
NASA’s mission continues during this time. We are proud to share our vision for sustainability at the Moon after 2024 and how #Artemis prepares us for Mars. Learn more: https://t.co/3nJUT1M7Skpic.twitter.com/3czJWMAyYJ— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 2, 2020
The report also explains a robotic return to the surface starting from next year, all in the name of science. NASA plans on sending dozens of novel science instruments and technology to the Moon to study its terrain, and metal and ice resources.
"The U.S. is still the only nation to have successfully landed humans on the Moon and spacecraft on the surface of Mars," as per the report. "As other nations increasingly move out into space, American leadership is now called for to lead the next phase of humanity’s quest to open up the future to endless discovery and growth."