Mission Artemis – NASA plans to return to the moon in 2022

NASA plans to bring humans to the moon again soon. (picture alliance / dpa / Hinrich Bäsemann)

“Our goal is to return to the moon by 2020 with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods of time.”

The return to the moon by 2020, this time to stay, to live and work there for the long term – this was the goal of the then US President George W. Bush almost 18 years ago. Then came Barack Obama, then Donald Trump, now Joe Biden – and every new president wanted to make his mark on the American future in space. That was anything but conducive to the planned return to the moon. The idea was originally impressively simple: in order to save time and money, essential components of the winged US space shuttles such as their large, brown tank, the side rockets and the engines are still used for the new Artemis program.

“When looking at the Artemis architecture, one could easily get the idea of ​​saying, ‘Hey, the space shuttle program was the inspiration for that’. But it is not that simple. After the end of the space shuttle, we also stopped industrial production of their components. There were no more additional missiles and no more tanks were produced. We also had to rebuild the launch pad and needed a new tracked vehicle to drive the missile to the launch tower. We have also expanded the assembly hall. All of this took time. Now we’re finally at the point where everything comes together. ”

Jeremy Parsons is assistant manager for NASA’s exploration program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Maiden flight for rocket and spaceship

The era of the Artemis missions is expected to dawn there shortly, with Artemis I. On this mission, the Orion crew capsule will be launched for the first time on the new giant SLS rocket, the Space Launch System, towards the moon, explains Paul Marshall. He is Associate Program Manager for Orion at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Artemis I is an unmanned mission. It will take between 25 and 45 days. That depends on the time of year in which we start. The main goal is to accelerate the Orion capsule during its lunar flight so strongly that its heat shield has to pass its baptism of fire for manned missions when it later re-enters the earth’s atmosphere. ”

The Orion heat shield was tried out on the first test flight in 2014. At that time, however, the capsule only returned from orbit – and thus only at around 28,000 kilometers per hour. When it comes back from the moon, it will travel more than 40,000 kilometers per hour and thus heat up significantly more when it re-enters.

Artemis I will orbit the moon one to four times. That depends on the light conditions when the capsule returns. We want Orion to enter Earth’s atmosphere in daylight. In this way we can observe the heat shield in a wide range of the light spectrum during the descent. “

From now on every year to the moon

NASA is currently aiming for a launch date for Artemis I in the coming year. If everything goes well, another mission will follow annually, adds Jeremy Parsons from the Kennedy Space Center.

“Four crew members will be flying on board Artemis II. You will be the first to orbit the moon again after the Apollo flights 50 years ago. With Artemis III we want to land on the moon again for the first time and also have four astronauts on board. ”

Two of the four are then to land on the moon, the other two remain in a lunar orbit. All of this may sound like a repetition of history. But there is one crucial difference: parallel to the manned flights, the Americans, together with the Europeans and other international partners, want to set up a station in lunar orbit as well as one on the lunar surface. Next time the visit comes from Earth to stay.


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