Why NASA are returning mankind to the moon 50 years on from Apollo

31st August 2022

UPDATE from NASA:

Before scrolling below to get a full overview of the Artemis mission by NASA, here is the latest news published by NASA detailing the new launch date following an engine problem preventing the previously scheduled launches – the latest being on 2nd September. The new date has now been set as 27th September 2022. NASA tweeted:

“This just in: Our #Artemis I flight test around the Moon will launch no earlier than Sept. 27, with a backup opportunity of Oct. 2 under review.”

What is the Artemis Mission?

NASA’s Artemis mission is set to launch in September 2022 and will explore the moon, including its surface and interior. The mission has a number of ambitious goals, including exploring the moon’s poles and returning valuable data that will help astronauts live long-term in space. 

NASA will be using new technologies to explore the moon, including drones and robots. They will also use new technologies inside the Orion spacecraft, including new seats created using 3D printing technology from Stratasys. Read below to learn more about this fascinating mission!

When and where is the Artemis Launch?

The Artemis Mission Launch Details:

  • Launch from Kennedy Space Centre, Florida
  • Rescheduled for late September 2022 (27th September*) after delay from 3rd September at 2.00am (BST)
  • Expected mission timeframe: 42 days, 3 hours, 20 minutes
  • Distance: approximately 1.3 million miles

How can I watch the Artemis mission launch?

You can keep up with the whole Artemis mission on NASA TV, including the live launch. You can watch the Artemis Mission launch live here:

Why are NASA exploring the moon 50 years on?

Exploring the moon will provide NASA with valuable information to help them prepare for future missions to Mars. For example, they hope to find ice at the lunar poles that could be used for drinking water in future missions. Scientists will also be studying the surface of the moon to learn more about the composition of materials there. They hope to find out whether they could be used to create habitats for future human settlements.

Artemis mission objectives:

1. Uncover & trial new technologies

Needless to say, technology has come on leaps and bounds since 1972 when the mission control system worked off a computer system no stronger than that of a smartphone today. So, there’s a tech-heavy toolkit off to the moon this time.

2. Commercial collaborations

It is the first time that NASA has teamed up with commercial companies in the aerospace industry, including Boeing, but also Elon Musk’s commercial flyers, SpaceX. There are plenty more collaborations behind the scenes too, with Stratasys 3D printers used to make parts for the Orion spacecraft.

3. Extended stay

Last time we just wanted to get there, and get back. This time we want more time. The plan is to be on and around the moon for 42 days for investigative research, knowledge-collection, content and discovery.

4. Discoveries

Scientific discovery is a major reason for the mission, especially as future colonisation on Mars becomes a distinct possibility.

5. Equality

It will be the first time that a woman and a black astronaut step foot on the moon, and increasing diversity and inclusion within NASA has become a key focus.

6. Resources

Finding ice in the lunar pole is one of the big goals, but it is hoped that other discoveries could come from studying material composition.

 

7. Inspiration

Another goal of the team at NASA is to inspire the next generation – the “kids” under 50 who have not seen a person land on the moon in their lifetime.

How will NASA explore the moon?

The new Artemis mission will use a number of different technologies to explore the moon. They will first send a robot to orbit the moon and eventually land on the surface. This robot will be used to collect samples and send them back to Earth for analysis. It will also send data to crew members on board a space station orbiting Earth. This information will then be used to make plans for the next phase of the exploration. 

Astronauts will also make a trip to the surface of the moon. These trips will take place in specially designed rovers that can travel at high speeds. During the mission, they will also use a drone to send back information from different parts of the moon. These vehicles will allow the crew to carry out a range of experiments and collect important information that will help them to prepare for future missions.

What technology is in NASA's armoury?

New technologies include 3D printing, robotics and other machines that will facilitate the exploration of the Moon. For example, robots will be used to explore the surface of the Moon and help to build bases for future exploration by humans. At the same time, drones will be used to survey the landscape and identify areas of interest that could be important for further study. 

It will also allow us to identify any areas that might be dangerous or unsuitable for use in the future and take action to prevent any problems before they occur. It is also hoped that the technology developed during the mission will be able to be used to help explore other planets in the future, providing a valuable resource that can be adapted for use in other planetary expeditions.

NASA plan to use a number of different technologies during the mission. Some of the technology that will be used has already been developed for use in previous missions. This includes the Orion spacecraft, which will be powered by an engine known as the J-2X. This engine will allow the spacecraft to travel at high speeds into space and around the moon. 

Drones

They also plan to use a number of drones during the mission. The drone that will be used during this mission will be the size of a sparrow and will be able to travel at speeds of up to 100mph. This machine, named Kilopower, is designed to have many of the same capabilities as the Eagle lunar modules that were used during previous missions and it will use the same rockets to land on the moon as it would for landing on Earth.

Kilopower will also be able to send information back to Mission Control on Earth through the same communication system that is used for the rocket engines. Once the drone has landed on the surface of the moon it will be operated by an astronaut on board the spacecraft and it will be able to provide valuable information about the environment around it. 

This will be the first time that a drone has been used to explore the surface of the moon and it will lead to the development of a new generation of technology that could be used in other space exploration missions in the future.

Robots

One of the human-robot teams that will set out to explore the Moon’s surface after the Orion crew land their craft will consist of a NASA astronaut and a humanoid robot named Valkyrie. It will be used by the crew to take photos of the area around the moon and transmit them to earth. This will allow the scientists to get a clearer view of the area and plan further missions.

The robot that will be used in the mission is similar to a moon buggy but much smaller. It will be smaller and easier to handle than the larger versions used in previous missions. It will also be equipped with a robotic arm that will allow it to pick up samples and perform other tasks during the mission.

It will also be equipped with cameras that will allow it to take photos and videos of the area around it. This will help scientists to get a better idea of the composition of the area. They will also be able to use this information to plan further missions to the moon in the future.

The landing robot

The landing robot is one of a number of robots that will be used in the mission to explore the Moon. These machines will be designed to perform a variety of tasks while they are on the Moon and they will be controlled using wireless systems to ensure they are able to move around freely and safely. 

They will also be equipped with cameras to help them monitor their surroundings as they perform their tasks and they will be able to communicate with their controllers using a wireless network. This will allow them to be monitored and controlled in real time and it will greatly increase the safety of the mission.

The terminology - what is the lunar gateway, SLS, HLS, Artemis, Orion?

Orion – Orion is the spacecraft that will be propelled into space by space launch system. It is named after the constellation.

Artemis – Artemis is the name of the mythological Greek goddess of the moon and twin sister of Apollo linking the last time humans were in space, and this time.

Go & No-Go – This one is almost obvious, if the launch is a go – any issues are to be observed, and if it’s a no-go there will likely be a postponement like on Monday.

LO2 and LH2 – Cryogenic liquid oxygen (LO2) and liquid hydrogen (LH2) used for lift-off. 

ICPS – This refers to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) which is where Orion will get the propulsion required to navigate space without the core stage of the rocket.

SLS – SLS refers to the Space Launch System but in shorthand NASA will likely refer to the rocket itself as SLS.

HLS – HLS is the Human Landing System

Lunar gateway – set to serve as the staging point for deep-space discovery in the future, the lunar gateway is the bridge between space and the moon and where astronauts will congregate for future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond

Artemis 1 – Rescheduled from 29th August after technical difficulties. A second launch attempt is scheduled for Saturday 3rd September

L Minus and T Minus – Both refer to the countdown. While L Minus indicates the time left until lift off in hours and minutes and doesn’t stop for anyone, the T Minus accounts for tasks that don’t disrupt the schedule. Any such tasks are announced as a ‘hold’. 

The pedigree raise – Around 12 minutes after launch – the ICPS raises Orion’s altitude to prevent it re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. 

Trans-lunar injection burn – when the ICPS cranks up from 17,500 miles per hour to 22,600 miles per hour – it is to escape the force of earth’s gravitational pull. Following this final burn, ICPS will detach from Orion to make for the moon.

Meet the Crew

Inside the Orion spacecraft

As well as carrying the crew into space, the craft is designed to navigate and sustain the crew during space travel.

Inside the spacecraft itself are some new features designed to improve the safety of the crew and help them to stay as comfortable as possible while they are in space. One of these features is the seats which are made using the latest materials and 3D printing technology from Stratasys ensuring that every part of the craft is made from best-in-class materials.

In addition to the new seats, Stratasys, together with PADT, Inc and Lockheed Martin Space developed 200 high-quality components for the craft using the latest technological innovations. The crew will also be provided with a ventilation system that will help them to control the amount of air entering the cabin and reduce the feeling of pressure while inside. This will ensure that they are as comfortable as possible at all times while they carry out their mission.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft from NASA designed to take mankind into a brave new age of deep-space discovery. Owing to commercial collaborations and innovations from NASA, the Orion spacecraft is the next big thing. Built to withstand future missions into space, to the moon and mars, it is a development that has encapsulated some of the most important technology of our time.

Highlights of the Orion spacecraft’s construction:

  • Bulkhead and nosecone of the Orion spacecraft were joined using friction stir welding
  • 200 3D printed components by Stratasys & Lockheed Martin
  • Artemis has light years of new tech over Apollo
  • Acoustics tested in acoustic chamber
  • 18,000 pound Orion mock up was trialled at Hydro Impact Basin at NASA’s Langley Research Centre
  • Heat shield is the world’s largest and is designed to protect the rocket and crew from atmopsheric heat
  • Six astronauts
  • Stepping stone to red planet

What are the benefits of the mission?

One of the main benefits of the Artemis mission is that it will allow scientists to learn more about the Moon and explore its potential as a resource for future space exploration. It will also be the first time that humans will have set foot on the Moon in more than 50 years, which will allow them to learn more about how to live and work on the surface in a safe environment. Not only is it the first time in 50 years we have surfaced the moon, but NASA will land the first woman and the first person of colour on the moon.

It will also help to provide more information about the possibility of human colonisation of the Moon in the future. In addition to carrying out scientific research, the mission will also be designed to help advance the development of new technologies for space travel. This will be the first time many of these technologies have been used in this way and it will be very useful in helping to develop new methods and techniques that can be used during future missions to other planets and moons.

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