More than half a century has passed since the last manned mission to the Moon. Far away is the memory of Apollo 17 that December 1972 became the last manned visit to our satellite.
But the moon has come back into fashion in recent years and now every nation in the world wants a piece of the pie. This desire for the conquest of the lunar is visible, for example, in the recent missions “Moon 25” of Russiaher counterpart “Chandrayaan 3” of the India and the NASA Artemis Program that in coordination with SpaceX intends to place two human beings on lunar soil by 2025.
Why do we come back after 50 years?
This sudden international interest in the Moon is totally different from the one that brought us to its surface in the first place. more than 50 years ago.
The Apollo 11 trip in 1969 was the result of the geopolitical tensions of the time between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Cold War called for a fierce competition to demonstrate the technological superiority of both superpowers.
Once achieved, there was no great interest in joining more efforts on the lunar issue and the budget focused on projects related to low Earth orbit.
However, this is changing and the Moon is already the main point of interest for space agencies who plan to establish permanent colonies on its surface and develop a mining industry to take advantage of its resources.
Furthermore, the Moon is a key destination in the future conquest of the solar system as it has water at its poles, so it would be possible to manufacture rocket fuel there and thus use it as an intermediate stop in the planetary travel.
This is essential since launching a rocket on Earth presents various difficulties. The earth It is the densest planet and the largest rocky planet in the solar system, which poses weight and logistical limitations since, in order to put a ship into orbit, it is necessary to burn enormous amounts of fuel to reach the escape velocity that translates in less payload.
The Moon, however, with six times less gravity that the terrestrial would be a perfect pit stop for interplanetary travel.
Artemis’s 3 missions
He Artemis program It is a clear reference to NASA’s now legendary Apollo program which took a total of 12 men to the lunar surface in 6 different missions.
Artemis, the Greek goddess for whom the show is named is primarily portrayed as the goddess of the hunt. Twin sister of Apollo, she also has a pure and cold character, commonly related to the Moon, unlike her brother Apollo, more concomitant to the Sun.
As of today, the Artemis program already has one mission behind it and two scheduled for the next two years.
The mission Artemis I It was an unmanned flight carried out on November 16, 2022. With a duration of 25 days, it intended and would later successfully carry out the first SLS rocket launch (Space Launch System) which currently holds the position of the most powerful rocket in history, being up to 15% superior to the Saturn V that took Apollo 11 to the Moon in 1969.
However, this rocket is obsolete, it seems more like an improvement on its predecessor from the last century than a true technological leap. For this reason, NASA has a contract with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space agencywhich has shown great advances in the reuse of rockets with its models “Falcon”.
This contract will play an essential role in the Artemis programme, since the SpaceX Starshipwill be the ship that will be used in the third mission to land the astronauts on the moon, much superior in all aspects to the SLS and reusable.
The objective of the mission was to test the technology of the Orion moduleof the SLS rocket, as well as measuring certain parameters of the lunar orbital flight in dummies integrated into the module, such as radiation levels, in order to be the first step in man’s return to the Moon.
Artemis II It is planned for November 2024 and will be the first manned mission of the program, four astronauts already selected will be the lucky ones to orbit the Moon aboard the Orion spacecraft in this mission approximately ten days of duration.
It will be a short mission and they will not make a complete orbit, they will use the gravitational pull of the Moon to return to Earth after passing through the far side.
Artemis III It is the final mission of this first project of the program, which will presumably place two humans on the Moon in 2025, after more than half a century.
Aboard the SLS, in the Orion capsulefour astronauts will try to dock with the Starshippreviously located in lunar orbit, which will be the vehicle in charge of landing on the moon and returning the astronauts to orbit for a later return.
The SpaceX starship It is a very ambitious project chosen by NASA that, if it goes according to plan, will not only be the most powerful rocket ever created, but, due to its reusable factor and its enormous proportions, it will be a before and after in space exploration.
Two of the four astronauts will be the privileged ones to step on lunar soil, specifically the lunar south polerich in water in the form of ice.