Head over to CNN for live coverage from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida through to the launch Monday morning. Space reporters Kristen Fisher and Rachel Crane will give us a real-time report on the launch with a team of experts.
When the unmanned Artemis I mission takes off on Monday, August 29, it’s just the first step toward the future of space exploration.
The last manned moon landing, Apollo 17, was nearly 50 years ago. The Apollo mission’s latest record for the longest crewed spaceflight still stands: 12.5 days.
Through the Artemis program, which aims to land humans on the undiscovered south pole of the Moon and eventually on Mars, astronauts will go on long-duration missions into deep space that will test all the limits of exploration.
“We will return to the moon in order to learn to live, work and survive,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a press conference earlier this month.
“How do you sustain human life in those hostile conditions? And we will learn to use the resources on the Moon so that we can build things in the future as we go—not a quarter of a million miles away, not a three-day journey—but millions and millions of miles away in a journey that takes months and months.” If not years.”
NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik discussed the importance of using lunar exploration as a way to prepare for a landing on Mars during a NASA briefing Saturday.
When camping in the Alaskan wilderness, he said, you wouldn’t just rely on new gear and shoes that haven’t been broken yet. Mars is not the place to test new equipment for the first time either.
“We’ll first go to some local places a little closer,” Bresnik said. “Then you can go home if your shoelaces break or something.”
Astronauts have lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, which orbits about 254 miles above the planet in low Earth orbit, for more than 20 years. Their experiments, which can last from six months to nearly a year, revealed how the microgravity environment affects the human body.
“Every day that I personally spent on the space station, I would look at it as walking on Mars,” said NASA astronaut Reed Wiseman, chief of the astronauts office at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “That’s why we’re there. We’re trying to improve life on Earth and trying to expand humanity into our solar system.”
In Artemis II, scheduled for 2024, astronauts will follow a trajectory similar to Artemis I – orbiting the moon at a distance wider than any of the Apollo missions. Artemis 3, scheduled for late 2025, will land the first woman and next man at the moon’s south pole, where permanently shaded regions may harbor ice and other resources that could sustain astronauts while hiking on the moon’s surface.
“Our moon is like a celestial library right next door,” said Jacob Blecher, NASA’s chief exploration scientist. “Moon rocks and lunar ice are essentially the books of this library. We can use them to start revealing how the solar system evolved. This can really help us get a sense of what was happening here on Earth when life was establishing a foothold in the solar system.”
The Artemis program includes establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon and establishing a lunar outpost called Gateway in its place.
“We want to stay on the lunar surface and learn on the lunar surface so we can get as much knowledge as possible and know how we’re going to Mars,” said Jim Frey, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “At Apollo, we presented an incredible science at the equator. This time, we’re going to the South Pole.”
The SLS missile will evolve over time, Nelson said. By the time the Artemis IV mission moves to the launch pad later in the decade to dock with the gate, the missile will be longer and more powerful than the version used on the Artemis I.
Nelson stressed that Artemis I is an experimental mission. It serves as the inaugural flight for the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft and its heat shield, as well as protective equipment for future astronauts and a radiation exposure measurement.
Lessons from Artemis I, which will be collected when it launches in October, can inform the next steps of the Artemis programme.
Currently, the first five Artemis missions are planned, and NASA is working out the details of six to ten missions, Frey said.
Frye said teams at NASA are “going through broad exploration goals and then narrowing them down to a structure that takes us to Mars.” “We’re looking forward to scrolling through that structure, resolutions and process in the first part of next year.”
“With the launch of Artemis I on Monday, NASA is at a historic inflection point, preparing to begin the most important series of missions of scientific and human exploration in a generation,” said Bhavya Lal, NASA Associate Administrator for Technology, Policy and Strategy.
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