NASA’s next Artemis lunar landing will focus on the south pole.

NASA’s next Artemis lunar landing will focus on the south pole.

The Artemis Program, which is NASA’s return to the moon, aims to land astronauts in the future close to the lunar south pole, where ice may be present in permanently shadowed craters and serve as a supply of oxygen, water, and a component of rocket fuel for future deep space explorers.The program’s first flight, Artemis 1, is an unmanned test flight for the Orion crew module and the Space Launch System heavy lift rocket, which will ultimately return men to the moon. The 42-day test flight will take off at 8:33 A.M. EDT on Monday.

The Artemis 2 mission, which is scheduled to fly in late 2024 if the first trip goes smoothly, will take four people on a lengthy circle around the moon before returning to Earth. This will prepare the way for Artemis 3, which will take place in 2025 or 2026 and aim to land the first woman and the second man close to the south pole of the moon.

The Artemis astronauts will map the south polar region, collect samples, and conduct geological studies in order to better understand the origin and evolution of the moon. They will also use the missions as a testbed for the advanced technologies and life support systems that will be required for future missions to Mars.

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An imagined scene of astronauts laboring close to the moon’s south pole. NASAWhile getting humans into the polar orbits necessary for descents to the south pole area is difficult enough, getting to the moon in the near future is very difficult.

The first two Artemis missions will maintain a “simple” course by typically following equatorial paths, passing behind the moon as seen from Earth, and coming in and out of communication with mission controllers.

The near-rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO, is a highly elliptical polar orbit with a low point (perilune) of about 1,000 miles and a high point (apolune) of approximately 43,000 miles over the moon’s south pole that NASA planners have chosen for the Artemis 3 mission and future trips to the surface.

Orion’s service module engine isn’t strong enough to propel the spaceship straight into a low-altitude circular orbit, but it can still achieve this orbit, and it has a few distinct benefits over the more common equatorial orbit.

Orion astronauts can first and foremost go to the moon’s poles. Additionally, during each orbit around the moon, the capsules in a lunar NRHO will have a direct line of sight with Earth, guaranteeing continuous communications. Additionally, if there are no eclipses, the sun always shines on a spacecraft’s solar arrays.

Nujoud Merancy, director of the Johnson Space Center’s Exploration Mission Planning Office, said that “NRHO offers worldwide lunar access.” It uses very little fuel, particularly when compared to other moon orbital configurations.

According to the Artemis design, a tiny space station called Gateway will be constructed in a nearly rectilinear halo orbit and will include solar-electric propulsion, a habitation module, an airlock, and docking ports.

Orion crew module astronauts will fly into the NRHO, dock with the Gateway, and enter after being launched atop SLS launchers. Gateway, unlike the International Space Station, can only accommodate relatively brief stays with a small crew, but it will provide an excellent research platform for intensively investigating the moon.

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An illustration of an Orion spacecraft approaching the NASA-planned Gateway space station in lunar orbit for docking. NASAMerancy said that NRHO will provide Gateway with a constant line of sight or vision of Earth so that communication would be unbroken. And since the Gateway spacecraft is traveling into deep space, a lot of chances for radiation study and a deeper understanding of the effects of space weather on people and equipment for future exploration are made possible by its presence.

Gateway won’t be operational for the first landing mission, Artemis 3, however. Instead, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion sole-source contract to create a modified version of their Starship rocket that would function as a lander.

The Artemis 3 Orion will connect with the Starship in lunar orbit rather than the Gateway, and two people will then descended to the surface from there. Before the crew of the Artemis 3 arrives, SpaceX intends to fly an unmanned test trip.

Other businesses are creating follow-up lander concepts. The Gateway space station, which may possibly be used for lunar research missions without a landing, is being built by NASA, but it is unclear how that would turn out.

As a type of Artemis pathfinder, NASA is funding the CAPSTONE tiny satellite project. CAPSTONE, which was launched in June on a Rocketlab launcher from New Zealand, will touch down in a nearly rectilinear halo orbit around the moon in the middle of December. While testing communications, it is intended to gather information about the radiation and illumination conditions.

In August, NASA identified 13 potential landing locations that would allow Artemis moonwalkers to explore and search for evidence of ice while still taking use of the near-constant sunshine. These sites are within reach of permanently shaded craters or depressions.

 

At the moon’s south pole, NASA has chosen 13 potential landing locations where Artemis astronauts will have access to accessible craters and depressions that are never lit by the sun as well as almost constant sunlight for solar power. Future astronauts could be able to use the ice deposits in these craters to create water, air, and rocket fuel. NASA

According to Mark Kirasich, a senior planner at NASA Headquarters, “selecting these locations means we are one major stride closer to returning people to the Moon for the first time since Apollo.” “When we do, it will be unlike any mission that has gone before as astronauts explore deep spaces that have never been visited by humans before and set the foundation for future extended stays,” said Armstrong.

The Artemis crew, according to NASA’s principal exploration scientist Jacob Bleacher, will contribute in the creation of a “blueprint for exploring the solar system.”

As a resource and from a scientific standpoint, lunar water ice is significant because it can be used to produce fuel and oxygen for life support systems.

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