By Alice Deyell, ’26
Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and twin sister of Apollo, hopes to join her brother on the moon by 2025. Artemis was founded to finish what the Apollo program of the late 60s and early 70s started; to return humans to the moon. Being the goddess of the moon, the program represents many of NASA’s goals, including establishing a long-term presence on the moon and setting up an orbiting space station.
The Artemis program will put the first woman and person of colour on the moon, adding more diversity to our exploration of space. As all the Apollo astronauts were white military men. It’s been over 50 years, and NASA’s had female and BIPOC astronauts in low earth orbit for some 40 years now. Having diversity in our final frontier is important to keep furthering the equality of the modern world.
Named “Gateway”, the moon station will be launched by the Falcon Heavy Rocket in 2024 by SpaceX. The crew of the Artemis missions will mainly reside upon Gateway, with a few astronauts going down to the moon’s surface and staying on the lunar outpost. Science experiments will be conducted on Gateway, just as they are on the International Space Station (ISS), though the station will be much smaller than the ISS, made up of only a few modules and a robot arm, but might grow as we spend more time in lunar orbit. Gateway will be a stop in between Earth and Mars, representing a “gateway” for NASA’s missions to Mars in a decade’s time.
The rocket being used for humanity’s return to the moon is the Space Launch System (SLS), with the Orion capsule at the top. SLS is the most powerful rocket ever made, and will continue to evolve for missions past the moon. The first SLS vehicle is Block 1, standing at 322ft tall, which will be used for the first three Artemis missions. There’s also the BLock 1B and Block 2, each with crew and cargo versions. Block 1 only has one core stage and two solid rocket boosters, unlike the Saturn V of the Apollo era, and has 15% more thrust. These improvements will allow the SLS rocket to be used past the Artemis missions, to Mars and beyond. The rocket will also have more reusable parts than the Saturn V due to only having one core stage. The core stage can’t be reused due to its enormity, but the rocket boosters and capsule can be reused.
The first Artemis mission, Artemis 1, is going to be an unmanned trial mission to test out all of the systems in preparation for the manned missions. Artemis 1’s launch date has been getting pushed back for a while now. Originally, it was supposed to launch last spring, then August 29th, then September 19th, and so on.
The first attempt at launching Artemis 1 was made on August 29th 2022. However, due to a faulty reading on a redundant sensor, it was cancelled. On September 3rd, 2022, the second attempt was again cancelled after a hydrogen leak was discovered. Many times, the rocket has been rolled in and out of the historic launch pad 39B, from which Apollo 11 launched. It was to be rolled out again on September 27th, but was cancelled due to the impending tropical storm Hurricane Ian in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where NASA launches their rockets.
We have much to look forward to in this decade as we enter a new space age, from looking back to the Moon for guidance on our future voyages to Mars. Indeed, the program is ambitious: Artemis will bring the first woman and person of colour to the Moon on the SLS rocket; NASA and SpaceX will set up a space station around the moon to do research and harbour astronauts headed to the Moon’s surface; Gateway will be a stepping stone to Mars, where we can find out more about extraterrestrial life. This is all beginning really soon, we are in for an adventure.