On Monday, NASA will present four astronauts heading to the Moon. The four — three Americans and one Canadian — will be the crew of Artemis II, a 10-day mission happening no later than the end of 2024 that will travel around the Moon before returning to Earth.
The crew will join the pool of American astronauts who visited the Moon from 1968 to 1972 during the Apollo era. Here’s what you need to know about Monday’s announcement.
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What is Artemis II?
NASA astronauts left the Moon for the last time in December 1972 when they completed the Apollo 17 mission. Since then, returning to the Moon has been discussed several times. The Trump administration has focused its efforts on an initiative dubbed the Artemis Program, which President Biden has pursued since entering the White House.
Last November, NASA launched the Artemis I mission, a test of the massive Space Launch System rocket and uncrewed Orion capsule. This led to the creation of Artemis II, NASA’s first new mission to the moon with astronauts on board. It won’t launch until at least November 2024.
Astronauts will travel in the Orion capsule, in an elliptical orbit that rotates up to 1,800 miles above Earth, giving the astronauts time to see how Orion’s systems work. Then, it will travel toward the Moon, using its gravity to return to Earth in order to splash into the Pacific Ocean. The whole trip should take about 10 days.
Who are the astronauts?
Currently there 41 astronauts Considered active in NASA. From this group, the agency selects three astronauts who will travel to the Moon during the Artemis II mission.
The fourth will be an astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency, which has four active astronauts.
Three NASA astronauts are not eligible for Artemis II because they are currently aboard the International Space Station, and others are busy preparing for upcoming missions there. But if those astronauts remain in the corps after they return home, they, and others not named in Artemis II and future candidates, can join the crew of Artemis III. Two of the astronauts on that mission, which is scheduled for no later than 2025, will land on the moon.
Why is NASA returning to the moon?
NASA officials argue that moon missions are central to the human spaceflight program — not just a repeat of the Apollo lunar missions from 1968 to 1972.
By mastering longer missions on the Moon, they say, NASA astronauts will prepare for trips to Mars. NASA also hopes to launch companies looking to establish a steady business of flying science equipment and other payloads to the Moon.
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