Why NASA Wants to Return to the Moon

These include the development of gateway robots and habitat modules for crews, as well as lunar rovers, all of which could be precursors to future technologies on Mars. The next-generation spacesuit developed by Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace will include improved life support and communications systems and allow for additional maneuverability.

Assuming the early Artemis missions are successful, on subsequent voyages, more components will be sent to the lunar station, and astronauts will be deployed on lunar soil for long excursions, possibly lasting several days at a time. week. “As we perform these tasks, they become more and more complex. So the infrastructure to support them becomes more and more complex,” Koerner said.

While no passengers will be aboard Artemis 1, the capsule will carry three mannequins. The male, known as Commander Moonikin Campos due to the public naming contest, has been used in the Orion vibration test. He will fly with two female mannequin torsos made of materials that mimic the bones, soft tissues and organs of an adult female. All will be equipped with sensors to detect radiation in space, as prolonged exposure can damage astronauts’ health. (The European Space Agency, in partnership with NASA, is sending a Shaun the Sheep doll.)

The mission will also deploy 10 shoebox-sized spacecraft, called CubeSats, some of which will map the lunar surface and study its ice pack, while others will test space radiation shielding or travel to further afield such as near-Earth miniatures planet.

The Artemis project will also serve as a test bed for technologies developed through public-private partnerships. NASA has partnered with Terran Orbit and Rocket Lab to launch a small spacecraft called Capstone, which is currently exploring the future orbit of the lunar portal. Maxar Technologies of Westminster, Colorado will provide power and propulsion for the Gateway, while Northrop Grumman of Dulles, Virginia is working on the HALO module that will house the first Gateway astronauts and small areas where research is conducted. SpaceX will launch both rockets on a Falcon Heavy rocket in late 2024.

Large-scale programs also create opportunities for relations between global diplomacy and space agencies. NASA is working with a number of international partners on Artemis, the European Space Agency provides Orion’s service modules on Artemis 1, and on Gateway’s I-HAB. Japan’s space agency is developing a cargo spacecraft for Gateway and is working on a concept for a pressurized lunar rover, in which astronauts can take off their bulky spacesuits. The Canadian Space Agency is designing a robotic arm for the space station. A total of 21 countries have also signed the Artemis Accords, an attempt by the U.S. government to establish best practices for future international lunar exploration.

However, ambitious projects like returning to the moon are not always political winners. It’s expensive, for one thing. Some critics, such as former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, have pointed to the increasing cost of the agency building its own space launch system — at a time when SpaceX is developing cheaper super-heavy rockets and reusable rockets. Starship.

Programs that extend to many presidential administrations with different space priorities could be vulnerable to political winds. Sometimes a program doesn’t survive a White House transition of power. Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump, who initiated the Artemis program, supported moon missions, while former President Barack Obama focused on sending humans to Mars. “Artemis spanned multiple presidential administrations, so that’s a good sign. But there are still a lot of unknowns, and it’s a huge investment,” says space historian and policymaker at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Exhibitor Teasel Muir-Harmony said.

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