nasa artemis plan

The Artemis program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is signaling what could be the beginning of a new stage in the space race between China and the United States specifically who are now focused on establishing sustainable operations on the moon.

This program, which is scheduled to initiate later this month, will aim to put astronauts once again on the surface of earth’s natural satellite to lay the foundations of a permanent encampment whose goal would be to extract minerals and other resources from the planet.

In addition, the moon could also be used by future astronauts as a launching pad for missions to other more distant locations within our solar system such as Mars.

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One of the goals of Artemis is to send the first woman and person of color to the satellite as the six missions involving the first 12 people who walked the moon’s surface were all comprised of men.

However, the first missions to the moon will be uncrewed and they are all expected to take place this year. Their objective will be to conduct certain tests and collect key data through the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule.

NASA Plans to Send the First Astronauts in 2024

The first astronauts that will be visiting the moon as part of the program are expected to be propelled to space in 2024 in a 10-day mission that will be mainly a flyby kind of operation to test the vehicle’s capabilities before attempting the first landing.

The activities that encompass the Artemis program are considered the first steps of NASA to establish long-term operations on the moon. Setting up antennas to explore other areas of the universe, testing and commercializing lunar water ice, and harvesting solar energy are some of the initiatives that the agency is exploring to make the journey a profitable endeavor for the country.

Sending missions to space continues to be a costly activity. In this regard, the Artemis program faces the challenge of building a preferably self-sustainable encampment by taking advantage of all the resources available on the lunar surface.

This includes powering the facilities by using solar energy, using water ice for astronauts to consume, and harvesting minerals and other resources that can be sent to earth to generate the resources needed to sustain the agency’s presence on the planet.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for wanting to build an economy that centers around having a sustained presence on the moon”, stated Rachel Klima, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

China’s CNSA is Also Giving Its First Steps in this Direction

The United States is not the only country exploring the possibility of establishing a permanent base on the moon as China has partnered with Russia recently to launch a project called the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), whose goal is to build a fully inhabited encampment by 2030.

Same as the North American nation, China aims to test technologies, exploit any resources that could be commercialized, and observe the universe, among other activities, through its lunar base.

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The China National Space Administration (CNSA), NASA’s Chinese equivalent, is the agency in charge of overseeing this project. The first stage of the project would be reconnaissance. This involves sending rovers and other robotic vehicles that can explore and perform certain tests on the moon’s surface to possibly identify the best locations to set foot.

Afterward, more ambitious missions would involve the use of spacecraft that will take samples of the contents of certain promising craters that may contain lunar water ice and shipments containing the materials required to start building.

The Chinese project has the goal to establish fully-capable operations on the surface of the satellite by 2036 in collaboration with Russia and other countries that may opt to join the initiative.

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