On November 16, 2022, Artemis I was successfully launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Artemis missions, a complex program, is meant to implement easier and more sustainable exploration of the Moon. The mission consists of three flights. Artemis I was an uncrewed test flight and will be followed by Artemis II, set to launch in 2024, and lastly, Artemis III, set to be launched in 2025.
The name, derived from the Greek goddess, Artemis, is a program meant to explore more about the moon as a way to understand Mars. Although robots have already performed much of the quantitative work on Mars, NASA plans to send astronauts to the planet by the 2030s.
The first flight of the mission, Artemis I, provided a proper basis for deep-space exploration for NASA, as it demonstrated the structure and performance of the Space Launch System (SLS). The spacecraft went thousands of kilometers beyond the Moon and successfully returned to Earth on December 11, 2022.
The second flight, Artemis II, will be the first crewed mission to go around the Moon since 1972. It is planned to launch after November 2024 and will take the Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen as a part of the four-member crew, making Canada the second country to have an astronaut fly across the Moon.
The third flight, Artemis III, will send the first woman and the next man to step onto the surface of the Moon. For a week, astronauts will explore the southern polar region of the Moon before returning to Earth.
The Artemis missions will once again remain as a valuable source of information on both space and the Moon. In NASA’s previous Apollo missions, information on the Moon’s origin was researched and studied. When Apollo astronauts collected Moon samples such as rocks and lunar minerals, scientists found that they were made of silicon, calcium, aluminum, oxygen, iron, and magnesium among other elements. Studies of the Moon’s rocks showed that the samples found on the Moon were incredibly similar to those found on Earth. For instance, there were oxygen isotopes embedded in Moon rocks that matched those on Earth. With other varying similarities, scientists soon proposed the Giant Impact Hypothesis in the 1970s. This hypothesis was based on the idea that the Moon formed when a body as large as Mars, named Theia, struck a “newborn Earth” around 4.5 billion years ago. This collision produced a mass of debris around the young Earth, which eventually formed on the Moon.
Further findings were obtained based on the Apollo missions to the Moon. For instance, scientists have begun to understand that (1) the lunar surface is solid, (2) the Moon is covered in regolith, (3) the Moon and its craters are ancient, and (4) the solar wind changes. However, despite great research, scientists are still met with increasing curiosity and questions. For example, based on the Giant Impact Hypothesis, why did the impact not hit Earth out of its orbit? Other questions include the possibility of past life on the Moon as well as the reasoning for a thicker crust on the far side of the Moon.
Discoveries of the Moon in the Apollo and Artemis missions will create an even greater need for research on our space and planet, and it is apparent that countries and companies are even more willing to do so.
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Harvey, A., & Mann, A. (2022, August 17). NASA’s Artemis Program: Everything you need to know. Space.com. https://www.space.com/artemis-program.html
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