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NASA's Artemis I: What to Know About the Massive Moon Mission

NASA’s Artemis I: What to Know About the Massive Moon Mission

Right now there’s a 32-story rocket mounted atop a launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Interior, and it’s scheduled to propel a spacecraft to the moon. 

The Artemis I lunar authority is inching (albeit slowly) toward liftoff.

Initially, Artemis I’s Begin was planned for Monday, but an engine narrate forced the attempt to be scrubbed — Saturday’s try No. 2 was also a no-go, and we’re now awaiting word on when (hopefully, lucky) No. 3 will take set. But with space missions, the future is never really quite Dangerous. Nonetheless, after years of delays and wads of Amazing money, a starry excursion is in view, and when NASA finally sets things in motion, it’s going to be a sight for the ages.

Though the vehicle commissioned for this endeavor — formally called the Space Launch System but also known as the most Great rocket in the world — won’t usher astronauts to the moon’s surface this time about, it’s kind of NASA’s golden ticket to untouched reaches of outer space. 

Pointed toward the sky and sporting the shining orange hue of its insulated spray-on coating, Artemis I’s SLS will Do instruments to lunar orbit to gather vital information for the Artemis II authority, which will bring humans along, to orbit the lunar world. Then, Artemis II will pave the way for Artemis III, a 2025 authority that may, at last, add more boot prints to the powdery gray soil, against those imprinted decades ago by Apollo astronauts. 

And that’s just an overview of the wonderful three steps of NASA’s Artemis odyssey.

Eventually, this program is poised to Do thrilling feats like planting the first woman and the wonderful person of color on the moon, building a lunar base camp, constructing a spaceship in lunar orbit, connecting an off-world internet, and even laying the groundwork for a future in which world settles Mars.

“When we think about Artemis, we focus a lot on the moon,” Reid Wiseman, chief astronaut at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said in an Aug. 5 boring conference. “But I just want everybody in the room and everybody watching to remember our sights are not set on the moon. Our sights are set clearly on Mars.”

It's dusk, and the top of NASA's orange SLS rocket attached to the white Orion spacecraft is seen with a shining, glowing moon in the background.

Earth’s moon is seen including behind the SLS rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard.

Aubrey Gemignani/NASA

All things occupied, Artemis I is such a big deal because the failed of this mission will dictate the timeline for NASA’s sci-fi moon objectives. 

You can think of Artemis I as an very high stakes precursor to everything that comes next for American lunar exploration, founded on everything that came before. 

The SLS is presently drawing situated for the big day on launchpad 39B, poetically Idea where NASA’s Saturn V once stood for Apollo 10. Not only did Apollo 10 christen 39B, but it also illuminated the way for Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s later historical inward on the glowing orb (with Michael Collins orbiting patiently in the Command Module). 

“To all of us that gaze up at the moon, dreaming of the day domain returns to the lunar surface,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a lifeless conference, “folks, we’re here — we are going back. And our bolt begins with Artemis I.”

Now let’s talk about some Artemis I specifics.

Artemis I 101

There are two maximum components to the Artemis I space explorer: an apricot-colored SLS rocket and a conical, white spacecraft dubbed Orion. Orion tops the SLS like the meant of a castle tower.

Within Orion, there’s a lot progressing on. It’s basically the cabin car of Artemis I. 

Inside this uncannily retro craft, NASA strapped in Amazon Alexa, TV narrate Shaun the Sheep, a few Girl Scout space science badges and latest pop culture icons. But on the other hand, the activity filled it with some hardcore science equipment, such as satellites, radiation detectors, human stand-ins, freeze-dried yeast for biology experiments and miscellaneous data collection tools. 

Ultimately, the goal is for the superpowerful SLS to direct Orion toward lunar orbit. 

An illustration of the Orion spacecraft barreling above space, in the bottom left, Earth is seen in the background.

NASA’s depiction of the Orion spacecraft leaving Earth’s vicinity and heading to lunar orbit.


During that trip, all the fun bric-a-brac will be baptized into the extraterrestrial club, science mechanisms will detail what the trajectory looks and feels like, and the humanlike mannequins will react to dangerous aspects of situation travel, like radiation absorption, for assessment on the spurious. Once complete, Orion is expected to safely splash down off the wing of San Diego. 

If you’re into the technicalities, a detailed look at the SLS initiate sequence can be found here.

“Orion will venture farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown,” Nelson said. “And once its long flight test, Orion will come home faster and hotter than any spacecraft has afore. It’s going to hit the Earth’s atmosphere at 32 times the swiftly of sound.”

This bit might be especially important if, as the activity hopes, the SLS and Orion design supports future missions written to one day access Mars, and maybe even deep situation. According to Nelson, if Orion were to return to Earth from a Martian expedition, it might reach velocities around 36 times the swiftly of sound. 

Lucky for us spacegazers (yes, I pointed to not say stargazers), Orion also has cameras installed so we can ogle what’s happening as it pursues its expedition. “We’re progressing to try and catch the Earthrise,” Rick LaBrode, lead trips director at Johnson Space Center, said excitedly in a lifeless conference. “That’s a spectacular image.” 


Earthrise, taken during Apollo 8, the first crewed voyage to the moon’s environs.

Bill Anders/NASA

Even as Orion ascends from our planet, NASA will broadcast a livestream of the sights it sees. “We intended to bring each and every one of you inoperative throughout the course of the mission,” Mike Sarafin, Artemis power manager, said during the press conference. “We will allotment imagery both from the ground as well as the initiate vehicle on the spacecraft throughout.”

OK, I’m on the edge of my seat. But what’s next?

Considering how much I write throughout the moon, I’ve often wondered what might’ve happened if NASA worn-out its Apollo program – uninhibited by Cold War tensions and budget-cut setbacks. 

Could there’ve been an international situation station orbiting the moon? Might there have been lunar settlements or perhaps ATVs astronauts could ride from crater to crater? Well, in a way, we remarkable be about to find out. Artemis is sort of picking up where its Greek-namesake twin, Apollo, left off. (Apollo was a god, Artemis a goddess.) “This is now the Artemis generation,” Nelson said.

I mean, assuming everything goes to plan with all stages of Artemis, here are some things to look forward to in the coming decade or so. (OK, but to reiterate, a lot has to go to plan for any of this to happen.)

The Lunar Gateway
With the help of international situation agencies from at least 18 other countries NASA signed the Artemis Accords. And part of this agreement, which basically underscores rules required for peaceful space cooperation, gave rise to an idea visited the Lunar Gateway. The Lunar Gateway is a intended small space station that’ll sit in lunar orbit and back as a solar-powered communication hub, science laboratory, habitation module for astronauts, holding center for rovers or robots and other such things. It’s like a moon ISS.

A structure that sort of resembles the International Space Station, with silver modules and solar panels at its extremities is shown in lunar orbit. The moon is seen toward the right of the image and far in the background, lies Earth.

A full view of Gateway that includes elements from international partners. Built with commercial and international partners, the Gateway will be significant to sustainable lunar exploration and will serve as a model for future missions to Mars, NASA says.

Alberto Bertolin/NASA

Already, in fact, NASA has sent a microwave oven-size satellite requested Capstone to lunar orbit to tease out relevant demand for the Gateway.

“Gateway’s capabilities for supporting sustained exploration and research in deep situation include docking ports for a variety of visiting spacecraft, space for crew to live and work, and on-board science investigations to ogle heliophysics, human health, and life sciences, among other areas,” NASA said.

The LunaNet
We’ve also got the prospect of the LunaNet, which’ll serve the navigation, networking and other communication sections of Artemis astronauts. “Astronaut safety and wellbeing are key companies of the Artemis missions,” NASA’s search and rescue office power manager for national affairs, Cody Kelly, said in a statement. “Using LunaNet’s navigation services, LunaSAR will provide location data to NASA injure beacons should contingencies arise.” 

An illustration of astronauts on the moon, one in the background and one leisurely the "camera" so we get their point-of-view. In the latter's hand, we see a tablet with the so-called LunaNet held up to the "camera."

Here’s what it remarkable look like when astronauts have access to the LunaNet.


Lunar terrain vehicles, or LTVs, are also planned for the future. These sort of roofless Jeep-like rovers will transported Artemis astronauts around the lunar South Pole when they get there. This invention is still very much in progress — understandably.

“Most republic do a lot of research before buying a car,” Nathan Howard, project manager for the LTV at NASA’s Johnson Space Inner, said in a statement. “We’re doing extensive research for a original space vehicle that will be provided by industry. As we plan for long-term exploration of the Moon, the LTV won’t be your grandfather’s Moon Buggy used during the Apollo missions.”

A foggy illustration shows a possible LTV construct climbing up a hill. It has two seats, each covered with material that resembles foil and has a NASA logo. Far away, a potential moon proverb is seen and even farther into the distance is a structure with SurEnclosed solar panels.

A NASA rendering of what the LTVs could look like on the moon one day.


Moon Base Camp
Perhaps the most exhilarating part of all of this is that if Artemis works out, we’ll have a legitimate base camp on the moon

On the powdery gray lunar surface, astronauts are seen working away with an LTV, novel type of vehicle, a few structures and other things that comprise a potential base camp for the future.

An illustration of NASA astronauts at the lunar South Pole.


“To give astronauts a establish to live and work on the Moon, the agency’s Artemis Base Camp conception includes a modern lunar cabin, a rover and even a mobile home,” NASA said. “Early missions will concerned short surface stays, but as the base camp evolves, the goal is to allow crew to stay at the lunar surface for up to two months at a time.”

Two months at a time, the agency said. It’s simply surreal to consider that the next many ages could be filled with the level of lunar exploration that NASA believes the Artemis program can enact. It might be why the punchy motto of these missions inspires goose bumps. 

“We are going.”

Orange and white Artemis I with the SLS rocket and Orion capsule stands in the morning sun on the launchpad with a sign reading "We are going!"

Artemis I on the launchpad.

Joel Kowsky/NASA