Sidebar: The Artemis Mission

Source/Credit: Orion spacecraft from NASA.

With all the previous posts about NASA’s Artemis mission, I should have outlined the three stages ahead as we return to the Moon:

Artemis I: This stage involves an uncrewed flight test around the Moon. The new Space Launch System carrying the empty Orion spacecraft will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will last from four to six weeks. The European Space Agency has supplied a key piece for this mission – a service module, which will supply the spacecraft’s main propulsion system and power (and also house air and water for astronauts on future missions).

Artemis II: This next stage will confirm all of the Orion spacecraft’s systems operate as designed with crew aboard in the actual environment of deep space as the spacecraft circles the Moon. The mission is expected to last just over 10 days

Artemis III: This third and final stage will land a crew on the surface of the Moon. NASA has awarded Human Landing System contracts to Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX. This final stage will be followed by annual crewed missions to the Moon.

The ultimate goal of Artemis is to establish a presence on the Moon as well as build an orbiting Gateway that can serve as a multi-purpose outpost providing essential support for long-term human return to the lunar surface. The Gateway will also serve as a staging points for deep space exploration, such as travel to Mars.

This is a broad and hopeful mission. The only thing that seems a bit odd is the website mission statement for Artemis:

With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.

I think the first focus of this multi-billion dollar lunar mission should be space exploration, which should also include a diverse crew. Maybe it is better to stick to the more universal statement in the earlier Artemis Plan:

Under the Artemis program, humanity will explore regions of the Moon never visited before, uniting people around the unknown, the never seen, and the once impossible. We will return to the Moon robotically beginning next year, send astronauts to the surface within four years, and build a longterm presence on the Moon by the end of the decade…we will use the Moon as the stepping stone for our next greatest leap—human exploration of Mars.

You say potato and I say spuds.

Source/Credit: Artemis I mission map from NASA.

Note: NASA’s Artemis page was somewhat out of date when I posted this summary. For instance, in April 2021, SpaceX was chosen to provide the lunar lander.

Update: On March 31st, NASA announced it was looking for “…other U.S. companies to provide new lander development and demonstration missions from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon.”