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Project Artemis: Returning Astronauts to the Moon

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

—Houston, Texas

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The logo design of the Artemis Mission

NASA is planning to return astronauts to the Moon in order to investigate and experiment, which will help our understanding of the universe and Earth. Since the Moon is the closest celestial body to Earth, it is the perfect learning ground for the preparation of future Mars missions and exploration of other planets. The goal of this project is to land humans on the Moon by 2024.


The first phase of the Artemis Project is to launch Gateway to orbit the Moon. The purpose of Gateway is to be an outpost for humans to observe the Moon, similarly to how the International Space Station orbits around the Earth for observations. To get to the Moon, Gateway will first orbit around the Earth and use its gravitational pull to boost itself towards the Moon. Its thrusters will help guide the Gateway’s path and position itself to orbit the Moon.

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The Centerline Docking Target, one of the three targets on Gateway

Next, NASA, with the help of private companies, will launch a capsule called Orion that will transport astronauts and utilities to Gateway. NASA must be able to time Orion’s launch correctly so that Gateway’s position on the Moon's orbit is prime for Orion to dock on it. Using the same launch path as Gateway, Orion will also use the Earth’s gravitational pull as a catapult to fly towards Gateway. The docking process of Orion onto Gateway is essentially the same as a spacecraft docking onto the International Space Station. In order for Orion to align with Gateway, Gateway has three targets that are black and white and use corner cube prisms that act as mirrors. Orion's AI technology will use LIDAR and visual cameras to calculate its position from Gateway. When it nears Gateway, Orion will emit bright flashing lights, which the LIDAR will sense the reflections from those prisms and the visual camera will detect the black and white markings and shadows to align with Gateway’s target. If the AI fails to detect or align with the targets, the astronauts in Orion will have to manually control Orion to dock on Gateway.

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Orion (right) preparing to dock itself on Gateway (left)

Later on, NASA and SpaceX will create Lunar Landers, which are rovers that will land on the Moon and test the capabilities of extracting resources like water to produce new materials. This will greatly help understand our deep space habitation capabilities for the future.

In addition, the creation of new spacesuits will enable more exploration. These spacesuits will have improved safety features, simplified maintenance, and better communications. Once we are familiar enough to understand the Moon's environment, we may be able to colonize the Moon and expand our world.


NASA is also using the help of its interns for the lunar project, whom can be as young as high school freshmen. This can be an opportunity for you to work for NASA and change the future. The sooner we go to the Moon, the sooner we will send astronauts to Mars.


Ready to lift off and explore? Check out the upcoming STEM·E events!

If you want to try docking the Orion to Gateway, check out this simulation:

To learn more about the Artemis project:

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