Artemis – The Humanities Return to the Moon

anil chopra, air power asia, Artemis, Moon Lander, Space, USA,

 “Pushing the boundaries of space exploration, science, and technology once again, America is on the verge of exploring more of the Moon than ever before. This new era of lunar exploration is called Artemis. Named after the twin sister of Apollo, she is the Goddess of the Moon, and we are the Artemis Generation” says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. As NASA gets all set to get to put humans on the Moon again after half a century 50 years, the world id technologically much more advanced. Private industry is now deeply involved in exploring space, including tourism. Artemis program, is planned to help humanity explore regions of the Moon never visited before. The plan is to return to send robots to the Moon starting 2021 and astronauts in 2024, and to build a long-term presence on the Moon by 2030. The Moon will then be used as the stepping stone for human exploration of Mars.

Apollo 11. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin walks on the moon. He and Neil Armstrong their historic landing on July 20, 1969. (NASA)

Apollo 11 – First Humans on the Moon

Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin formed the American crew that landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC. Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface six hours and 39 minutes later on July 21 at 02:56 UTC. Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later. They spent about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, and they collected 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar material to bring back to Earth. Command module pilot Michael Collins flew the Command Module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while they were on the Moon’s surface. Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the lunar surface at a site they named Tranquility Base before lifting off to re-join Columbia in lunar orbit.

Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, on July 16, and it was the fifth crewed mission of NASA’s Apollo program. The Apollo spacecraft had three parts: a command module (CM) with a cabin for the three astronauts, the only part that returned to Earth; a service module (SM), which supported the command module with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water; and a lunar module (LM) that had two stages—a descent stage for landing on the Moon and an ascent stage to place the astronauts back into lunar orbit.

Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket. Image Source: NASA

After being sent to the Moon by the Saturn V’s third stage, the astronauts separated the spacecraft from it and travelled for three days until they entered lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin then moved into Eagle and landed in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20. The astronauts used Eagle’s ascent stage to lift off from the lunar surface and rejoin Collins in the command module. They jettisoned Eagle before they performed the manoeuvres that propelled Columbia out of the last of its 30 lunar orbits onto a trajectory back to Earth. They returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24 after more than eight days in space.

Michael Collins, center, poses with Neil Armstrong, left, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. for a group portrait a few weeks before they took off to the moon in the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Armstrong’s first step onto the lunar surface was broadcast on live TV to a worldwide audience. He described the event as “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Apollo 11 effectively ended the Space Race and fulfilled a national goal proposed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy: “before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” It is already over 50 years since then.

International Space Station

For the last 20 years, humans have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station 250 miles above Earth, preparing for the day we move farther into the solar system. The International Space Station (ISS) is a modular space station, ahabitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. It is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies, NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The station serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific research is conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields. The ISS is suited for testing the spacecraft systems and equipment required for possible future long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars.

International Space Station. Image Source: Wikipedia

The ISS programme evolved from the Space Station Freedom, an American proposal which was conceived in 1984 to construct a permanently manned Earth-orbiting station, and the contemporaneous Soviet/Russian Mir-2 proposal with similar aims. The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations and the U.S. Skylab. It is the largest artificial object in space and the largest satellite in low Earth orbit, regularly visible to the naked eye from Earth’s surface. It maintains an orbit with an average altitude of 400 kilometres (250 miles) by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda Service Module or visiting spacecraft. The ISS circles the Earth in roughly 93 minutes, completing 15.5 orbits per day.

The station is divided into two sections: the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS), operated by Russia; and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations. Roscosmos has endorsed the continued operation of ROS through 2024, having previously proposed using elements of the segment to construct a new Russian space station called OPSEK. The first ISS component was launched in 1998, and the first long-term residents arrived on 2 November 2000. The station has since been continuously occupied for over 20 years, the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit, having surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 days held by the Mir space station. The latest major pressurised module, Leonardo, was fitted in 2011 and an experimental inflatable space habitat was added in 2016. Development and assembly of the station continues, with several major new Russian elements scheduled for launch soon. Currently, the station is expected to operate until 2030.

Mir space station. Image Source: space.com

The ISS consists of pressurised habitation modules, structural trusses, photovoltaic solar arrays, thermal radiators, docking ports, experiment bays and robotic arms. Major ISS modules have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets and US Space Shuttles. The station is serviced by a variety of visiting spacecraft: the Russian Soyuz and Progress, the SpaceX Dragon 2, the Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Cygnus, the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, and, formerly, the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The Dragon spacecraft allows the return of pressurised cargo to Earth, which is used, for example, to repatriate scientific experiments for further analysis. As of September 2019, 239 astronauts, cosmonauts, and space tourists from 19 different nations have visited the space station, many of them multiple times; this includes 151 Americans, 47 Russians, nine Japanese, eight Canadians, and five Italians.

US Presidents Diktat

Sending human explorers 250,000 miles to the Moon, then 140 million miles to Mars, requires a bold vision, effective program management, funding for modern systems development and mission operations, and support from various agencies across the globe. NASA got going to fine-tune the plan to achieve that bold vision since the US President called on the agency in December 2017 to lead a human return to the Moon and beyond with commercial and international partners. Later the President laid a new challenge, to send the first woman and next man to the Moon within five years. NASA is implementing the Artemis program to achieve those goals.

The Moon Plan Unfolds

The US “Moon plan” has two parts. An initial human landing by 2024 with acceptable technical risks. Sustainable lunar exploration in the mid-to-late 2020s. Later a historic first human mission to Mars. Safely and successfully carry out sustained human exploration of the Moon itself is a big challenge. U.S. commercial companies and international partners will be part of it. First master moon and then the first multi-year human mission to Mars. A sustainable lunar economy is the target.

Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on Pad 39B. (Credit: NASA)

Current Status

The powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft are nearing the end of testing and development. NASA plans early Artemis missions as a test case and to perfect the Human Landing System (HLS). NASA will integrate the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) on earth by 2023. They will go up on a single rocket, followed by a commercial logistics supply launch. In 2024, Orion will deliver its crew to lunar orbit. The commercially developed lander that will take the crew to the lunar surface will be capable of docking directly to Orion for crew transfer for initial Artemis missions. On the surface, the crew will wear the new exploration extravehicular mobility unit or xEMU spacesuit as they explore the surface for about a week before returning to Orion for the trip home to Earth.

Artemis Generation Spacesuit. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Subsequent Regular Artemis Missions

On later Artemis missions crew will arrive at the Gateway aboard Orion. On the Gateway, they will be able to conduct research and take trips down to the lunar surface. NASA will work with Artemis providers to ensure spacecraft are built to international interoperability standards with as many reusable components as possible for long-term sustainability at the Moon. Some of the long-standing International Space Station partners are eager to join NASA in lunar orbit. Canada, ESA (European Space Agency), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) has expressed interest. NASA and its partners will develop an Artemis Base Camp at the lunar South Pole, to support longer expeditions on the lunar surface. Planned Base Camp elements include a lunar terrain vehicle (LTV, or unpressurized rover), a habitable mobility platform (pressurized rover), a lunar foundation habitation module, power systems, ad in-situ resource utilization systems. This incremental build-up of capabilities on and around the Moon is essential to establishing long-term exploration of Earth’s nearest neighbour and preparing for human exploration of Mars.

South Polar Region. Image Credit: Tom Glenn. Source: cloudynights.com

The Build Up Phase

The Artemis Generation will teach how to live on other worlds. NASA in partnership with private industry has already been developing 21st century deep space habitation capabilities, new lunar lander technologies, safer upgraded spacesuits, simplified maintenance, and better communications. The plan includes the Gateway (sustained lunar orbiting station) from which human landers would be deployed. Along with the Gateway, NASA also established the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. With 14 CLPS providers currently on contract and eligible to bid on payload deliveries to the Moon. The agency has already awarded multiple deliveries and assigned payloads to flights in 2021 as well as the first of two planned deliveries slated for 2022. A task order has been awarded to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) in 2023. The agency plans to send science instruments and technology experiments to the surface at least twice per year on CLPS flights. NASA is interested in investigations at different lunar locations.

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). Image Source: spacecoastdaily.com

Artemis I

The key elements are the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, the HLS, and the EGS facilities that include a modernized spaceport. The design is for deep space human operations for up to four crew. First few times payloads will be delivered to the lunar surface aboard CLPS provider landers, and five of which will return lunar data. Human exploration under the Artemis program will begin with the crewed flight test of SLS and Orion on Artemis II in 2023. Plans are to conduct in-space flight testing of the lander system, including potential tests to the lunar surface. NASA’s goal is to conduct in-space testing of every possible hardware, software, and operational system required for Artemis III prior to the mission in 2024.

Artemis I will be an uncrewed Orion into Earth orbit. Image Source: behance.net

Artemis I will be an uncrewed Orion into Earth orbit, placing it on a path toward a lunar distant retrograde orbit, where it will travel 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, or a total of about 280,000 miles from Earth before returning home. This crucial flight test will demonstrate the performance of the SLS rocket on its maiden flight and gather engineering data throughout before Orion returns on a high-speed Earth reentry at Mach 32, or 24,500 miles per hour. It will test the new heat shield before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Over the course of the four-to-six-week mission, Orion will travel more than 1.4 million miles prior to returning to Earth, surpassing Apollo 13’s record for distance traveled from Earth in a spacecraft designed for humans. Orion’s maiden flight test, Exploration Flight Test-1, flew on December 5, 2014. The 4.5-hour mission has already demonstrated Orion’s space-worthiness in a high-Earth orbit, tested the spacecraft’s heat shield to the extent possible during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, and proved the capsule’s recovery systems. The Orion capsule flew higher and faster than any spacecraft meant to carry humans in more than 40 years. In 2019, NASA conducted a successful test known as Ascent Abort-2, which tested the Orion launch abort system that sits atop Orion at launch and during ascent. The Orion crew module for the Artemis I mission has been fully assembled, tested, and integrated.

Image credit : NASA Source: nasaspaceflight.com

Artemis II

With Artemis II, the first crewed flight of SLS and Orion will send four astronauts to the lunar environment for the first time in more than 50 years. This will be the Artemis Generation’s “Apollo 8 moment,” when the astronauts aboard Orion will capture the full globe of the Earth from afar, as a backdrop to the Moon. The Artemis II will be approximate 10-day mission where they will set a record for the farthest human travel beyond the far side of the Moon in a hybrid free return trajectory. The spacecraft will make two orbits around Earth before leaving for the Moon. Initial elliptical orbit would be at an altitude of 115 by 1,800 miles. Next orbit at 200 and 59,000 miles above Earth, called the High Earth Orbit (HEO). While still in HEO, Orion will fly beyond the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation system satellites and the Tracking Data Relay Satellite System (TDRS) communication satellites of NASA’s Space Network and allow an early checkout of Deep Space Network (DSN) communication and navigation capabilities that will be required, out to and around the Moon. Orion will then perform the trans-lunar injection manoeuvre, or TLI. Orion’s service module will now provide the last push needed to put the spacecraft on a path toward the Moon. A figure eight extending more than 230,000 miles from Earth as Orion returns on another four day journey back home. This fuel-efficient trajectory harnesses the relationship of the Earth-Moon gravity field, ensuring that—after its trip around the far side of the Moon—Orion will be pulled back naturally by Earth’s gravity, with no propulsive moves required.

Artemis Trajectory. Image Source: Wikipedia

The Artemis II crew will travel 4,600 miles (7,400 km) beyond the far side of the Moon. From this vantage point, they will be able to see the Earth and the Moon, with the Moon close in the foreground and the Earth about a quarter-million miles in the background. The only sunsets they will see during this mission will be in their first lap around Earth on their first day and a brief eclipse of the Sun as the Moon passes between them. The persistent sunlight will provide power production for Orion’s solar arrays, but the crew will have to dim lights and shade the windows inside the capsule to simulate night-time to achieve proper circadian rhythm. For maintaining physical condition while flying, the astronauts will have an exercise regimen of aerobic and strength training. Throughout the mission, crew will have limited down-time to contact their families, but they will have one off-duty day to mentally prepare themselves for the return home and talk with their families and friends back on Earth. The day before the crew returns home, they will prepare for Earth entry. During re-entry, the Orion spacecraft will be traveling at nearly 25,000 mph as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, which will slow it down to 325 mph. Parachutes will then slow it further to about 20 mph for splashdown, ending a mission that will exceed 620,000 miles (over 1,000,000 km).

Artemis II. Image Source: esa.int

Artemis III

Artemis III will be the culmination of the rigorous testing and more than two million miles accumulated in space on NASA’s deep space transportation systems during Artemis I and II. Orion and its crew of four will once again travel to the Moon, this time to make history with the first woman and next man to walk on its surface. A rapid return to the Moon requires the agency to minimize the number of systems involved with landing humans on the surface by 2024, so while future lunar landings will use the Gateway as a staging point in lunar orbit for missions to the surface. For long-term operations, the Gateway provides a staging point for human and robotic lunar missions. The orbiting outpost will support longer expeditions on the Moon, and potentially multiple trips to the surface during a single Artemis mission. The Gateway-to-surface operational system is also analogous to how a human Mars mission may work, with the ability for crew to remain in orbit and deploy to the surface.

Image Credit NASA. Source: Wikipedia

The Human Landing System

NASA has selected three companies to develop the HLS that will land astronauts on the Moon and then safely return them to lunar orbit before their trip back to Earth during Artemis missions. HLS will dock with Orion or the Gateway to receive crew in lunar orbit. Their Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV) is a three-stage lander with the descent element, the ascent element that includes the crew cabin, and the transfer element. The SpaceX Starship is a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations. It launches aboard a SpaceX Super Heavy rocket and is fueled in lowEarth orbit before embarking to lunar orbit. Although the landers will be developed by the commercial companies, NASA teams will be embedded with each company to provide insight and expertise.

Blue Origin’s Human Landing System. Image Credits: Blue Origin. Source: techcrunch.com

The agency is planning crewed exploration missions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024 that will include demonstrations of the new HLS systems. Later sustainable surface exploration demonstration missions will make full use of the Gateway-enabled capabilities, including refuelling and reuse of all or parts of the lander and conducting critical Mars mission simulations. HLS contractors have to ensure that flight tests are conducted in a relevant environment to reduce as many risks as possible before crewed missions. The exact landing site for Artemis III astronauts depends on several factors, including the specific science objectives and the launch date. High-resolution data received from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided incredible views and detailed mapping of the lunar surface, including changes in lighting throughout the year. Different regions that provide key desired traits: access to significant sunlight, which provides minimal temperature variations and potentially the only power source; continuous line-of-sight to Earth for mission support communications; mild grading and surface debris for safe landing and walking or roving mobility; and close proximity to permanently shadowed regions, some of which are believed to contain resources such as water ice. Investigation results from VIPER, the robotic scout, may also offer valuable information for landing site decisions.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Image Spource: nasa.gov

In addition to two crew, the HLS will carry up to 220 lbs (100 kg) of science tools and equipment to the surface, with the goal of returning up to 87.5 lbs (35 kg) of samples. In addition, CLPS providers may be used to deliver pre-emplaced science instruments and equipment for use by first human return crew while exploring on the lunar surface. On this first week-long expedition, the crew will characterize and document the regional geology, including small permanently shadowed regions, if available. While on the surface, crew will live in the cabin of the ascent vehicle—the upper part of the landing system that they will use to get back to lunar orbit when the surface expedition concludes.

NASA Training for next Moon walks. Representative Image Source: indianarrative.com

Two Moonwalks Artemis III

NASA requires a minimum of two moonwalks during the Artemis III surface expedition, and is currently working to drive down HLS vehicle mass to allocate more resources to spacesuit life support systems. The goal, if mass allows, is for the crew to conduct four planned EVAs, and reserve additional consumables for one unplanned contingency EVA. In this scenario, days 1, 2, 4, and 5 will be primarily focused on moonwalks to conduct science and technology demonstrations, with the latter part of day 5 dedicated to site cleanup. It will also mean securing tools and instruments for use on future expeditions, and will require placement far enough from the lander that they don’t cause a hazard during lift-off. Day 3 will be for crew rest, conducting science inside the ascent vehicle, and public engagement activities. Outside on the Moon, the two crew members will spend about 1.5 hours on set-up tasks including configuring the lander for contingency return, and unpacking tools and equipment for the objectives of the day. They also will pre-position dust cleaning equipment to minimize the amount of lunar soil that gets tracked back into the cabin. If the LTV can be delivered to the landing site region before the crew arrives, the distance they cover on each moonwalk will greatly expand. After completing the expedition on the lunar surface, the crew will launch from the surface to rendezvous with Orion and their crewmates in lunar orbit. It will be a three-day trip back to Earth. With lunar exploration capability re-established, NASA and the world will be ready to build a sustained presence on the lunar surface in preparation for human exploration of Mars.

The Gateway

The first two Gateway modules, the PPE and the HALO, will be integrated on the ground and launched together on a single rocket in 2023. The spacecraft’s solar electric propulsion system is three times more powerful than current systems, and provides Gateway with electrical power, control, thrust, and communication capabilities. The PPE also provides accommodations for science and technology demonstration payloads. The HALO will be the initial crew cabin for astronauts visiting the Gateway. Its primary purpose is to provide basic life support needs for the visiting astronauts after they arrive in the Orion and prepare for their trip to the lunar surface. It will provide command, control, and data handling capabilities; energy storage and power distribution; thermal control; communications and tracking capabilities; as well as environmental control and life support systems to augment the Orion spacecraft and support crew members. It also will have several docking ports for visiting vehicles and future modules, as well as space for science and stowage.

Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. Image Source: reddit.com/r/nasa

Cargo deliveries, initially provided by SpaceX will service the Gateway with pressurized and unpressurized cargo, including food and water for crew, science instruments, and supplies for the Gateway and lunar surface expeditions. Once in lunar orbit, the Gateway will enter a period of scientific operations. The first two payloads are a radiation instrument package provided by ESA and a space weather instrument suite provided by NASA. The data gathered by these payloads, coupled with Gateway operational experience, will be leveraged to enable sustainable lunar operations and successfully complete the first crewed mission to Mars.

Extending Lunar Missions and Preparing for Mars

After Artemis III, NASA and its partners will embark on missions on and around the Moon that also will help prepare for human missions to Mars. The target is to establish the infrastructure, systems, and robotic missions that can enable a sustained lunar surface presence. To do this, they will expand the Gateway’s capabilities, gain high confidence in commercial lunar landers departing from the Gateway, and establish the Artemis Base Camp at the South Pole of the Moon. It will leverage years of investment in the systems needed to return to the Moon, and for sustainable and extensible to the first human mission to Mars.

Image Source: theconversation.com

LunaNet

A LunaNet architecture will be put in place, a network access similar to networks on Earth. Rovers analysing samples can send their data to relays orbiting the Moon, which can then transmit that data back to Earth. Astronauts on the lunar surface will be able to receive real-time alerts generated from space weather instruments of incoming solar flares, giving them ample time to seek cover. Each communications link will be a connection to the larger network, allowing data transfers between any assets on the network. LunaNet will also support positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services and allow for more precise surface operations.

LunaNet. Image Source: leonarddavid.com

The Artemis Base Camp

Artemis Base Camp will be the first foothold on the lunar frontier. The three proposed primary mission elements of Artemis Base Camp are the Lunar Terrain Vehicle (unpressurized rover) to transport suited astronauts around the site; the habitable mobility platform (pressurized rover) that can enable long-duration trips away from Artemis Base Camp; and the foundation surface habitat that will accommodate four crew on the lunar surface and anchoring Artemis Base Camp and the be the U.S. presence at the South Pole. Together along with supporting infrastructure such as communications, power, radiation shielding, and waste disposal and storage planning these elements comprise a sustained capability on the Moon. It can be revisited and built upon over the coming decades while also testing systems that will be required for human missions farther into the solar system. The additional infrastructure at the base camp will support one to two month expeditions on the surface to learn more about the Moon and the universe at large, and to develop new technologies that will advance national industries while developing new resources that will help grow a new lunar economy.

The Artemis Base Camp. Image Source: onlinetyari.com

Mobility is vital to the long-term exploration and development of the Moon. In addition to its size, the Moon’s geography is complex and its resources dispersed. Evaluating potential sites for Artemis Base Camp, such as near Shackleton Crater, reflects the immense scale of the lunar geography. Robust mobility systems will be needed to explore and develop the Moon and to explore Mars. Mobility platform is a particularly important mission element as the first mission to Mars will use a similar type of spacecraft.

Shackleton Crater Near Lunar South Pole. Image Source: Wikipedia

Lunar Resources

As the sustained presence grows at the Moon, opportunities to harvest lunar resources could lead to safer, more efficient operations with less dependence on supplies delivered from Earth. NASA has several current ISRU investments through partnerships with industry and academia. Prospecting, extraction and mining initiatives are advancing our capabilities to find and harness resources from the lunar regolith. Chemical and thermal process developments may provide options to break down naturally occurring minerals and compounds found on the Moon and convert them to human consumables or even propellant. Other potential longer-term applications could lead to extra-terrestrial metal processing and construction of habitats or other lunar surface structures using resources found on the Moon. Many of these technologies could be demonstrated and advanced on the Moon for future use at Mars. And while the Moon has no atmosphere, it is known that the Mars atmosphere is rich in carbon dioxide, so NASA is also investing in initiatives to focus on atmospheric extraction and conversion of CO2 to other useful elements or compounds.

Image Source: Universidade da Madeira

In April 2020, the White House issued an Executive Order, “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources,” addressing U.S. policy regarding the recovery and use of resources from the Moon and other celestial bodies. NASA plans to purchase from one or more providers a sample of an extracted lunar resource for a nominal dollar value. The sample will be delivered in place on the lunar surface for retrieval by NASA at a later date. This process will establish a critical precedent that lunar resources can be extracted and purchased from the private sector in compliance with Article II and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty.

The Gateway Standards and Simulations

The Gateway will forge U.S. leadership and establish a presence in the region between the Moon and Earth with its international partners. The orbiting outpost also will offer a unique platform from which to conduct science investigations, with the potential to navigate to different orbits around the Moon. While the Gateway is a much smaller and more focused platform than the International Space Station, NASA is taking the lessons learned from that experience to implement a lunar architecture in which multiple providers (of crew systems, propulsion, logistics, science platforms, technology demonstrators, etc.) can provide complementary capabilities that increase the overall success and resiliency of the lunar architecture. Early work to define a series of International Deep Space Interoperability Standards has formed the basis through which industry and international partners can “plug and play” into the deep space exploration architecture. NASA and the international community collaborated to define the standards with the goal of defining interfaces and environments to facilitate cooperative deep space exploration endeavours. These standards focus on topics prioritized in this early phase of exploration planning and are not intended to dictate design features beyond the interfaces. The standards include: avionics, communication, environmental control and life support systems, power, rendezvous, robotics, thermal control, and software. Various partners will contribute including Russia.

Lunar Gateway of NASA’s Artemis Program. Image Source: directory.eoportal.org

For simulations, currently they envision a four-person crew traveling to the Gateway and living aboard the outpost for a multi-month stay to simulate the outbound trip to Mars, followed by two crew traveling down to Artemis Base Camp and exploring the lunar surface with the habitable mobility platform, while the two remaining crewmembers stay aboard the Gateway. The four crew are then reunited at the Gateway for another multi-month stay, simulating the return trip to Earth, before landing back home. These missions will be by far the longest human deep space missions in history. They will be the operational tests of our technical and operational readiness for the first human Mars mission.

To Summarise

All major components required to lead a robust human return to the Moon are underway, with U.S. commercial lunar robotic deliveries leading the way in 2021. NASA’s deep space transportation systems are in the final stages of testing before integration. The Artemis I and Artemis II flight tests will validate rocket and spacecraft performance and set America on a course to once again return astronauts to the Moon. NASA will also work with commercial partners to build landers and conduct risk-reducing tests in the lead-up to the landings on the Artemis III mission and beyond. It is a bold step requiring innovative development approaches. At every milestone will be learning point. Safety will be a paramount requirement. It will lead to the first human mission to Mars. With one of the strongest budgets in NASA’s history, it is the way forward to the Moon. With latest technologies, the world is closer to landing crew on the Moon again. The sooner they go to the Moon, the sooner we send astronauts to Mars.

References: This article is based on all the materials from the NASA official website https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/

Header Image Source: BLue-Origin

Published by Anil Chopra

I am the founder of Air Power Asia and a retired Air Marshal from the Indian Air Force.

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