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Back to the Moon – Then to Mars: With the “Artemis” program, NASA plans the future of large-scale manned spaceflight. The first test flight is now pending. Answers to the most important questions.

With the “Artemis” mission, the US space agency NASA plans its future for human spaceflight: after 50 years back to the moon, including the first woman, and then to Mars. Until now, however, the mission has mainly been ravaged by crises. Early Monday afternoon (29 August) the still unmanned, but nevertheless the first major test flight is scheduled.

What are the phases of the “Artemis” program?

The program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, is extraordinarily complex: American astronauts would have to return to the moon. A rover is also to be added, and humanity’s outposts will also be created on the moon and in its orbit. On the moon, among other things, possibilities for the production of solar and nuclear energy are being investigated. Later, astronauts would even target Mars — with the moon’s “Gateway” outpost as their base camp. Now, after years of ground testing, the first test flight is pending: After takeoff, “Artemis 1” will orbit the moon and land back in the Pacific about 40 days later.

Why should humans go to the moon again?

Actually, Mars was NASA’s target — but former U.S. President Trump had turned attention back to the moon, observers say, because during his presidency, Trump would have wanted U.S. astronauts on the moon to do that rather than celebrate his success. . In 2020, however, Trump was voted out. The moon remained the target – with Mars as the long-term target.

What exactly does NASA expect from the mission?

“We are flying back to the moon for scientific discoveries, economic benefit and to inspire a new generation of explorers,” NASA said. “We maintain US dominance in exploration as we build a global alliance and explore deep space for the benefit of all.” A kind of lunar economic sector has to be created with many jobs. From the exploration of the moon, NASA scientists hope for new information not only about the satellite itself, but also about the Earth and the entire solar system. The moon mission is also intended to prepare for the landing of humans on Mars, partly through technical innovations.

What’s the schedule now?

Originally, the administration of former US President Donald Trump had announced a first manned landing in 2024. However, current NASA boss Bill Nelson, appointed by Trump’s successor Joe Biden, quickly made it clear that this schedule could not be met and set the first manned landing. landing until 2025 at the earliest. NASA recently identified 13 possible landing positions on the moon.

How much does all this cost?

Initially, more than $30 billion is estimated. In addition to NASA and the European Space Agency Esa, the space agencies of several other countries are also involved.

Which equipment to use?

Mainly the heavy lift rocket “Space Launch System” and the capsule “Orion”. It is the “most powerful rocket ever built” and currently the “only rocket that can fly to the moon with a crew,” NASA chief Nelson said at a news conference recently. Among other things, Esa supplied an important part of the spaceship “Orion” with the European service module. Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are currently competing for the contract to build a moon landing device.

Why were there so many delays?

The development and construction of the missile system took longer and was more expensive than expected. In addition, there were repeated setbacks due to new technical problems arising during testing.

What is known about the crew?

NASA has set itself a goal: it must certainly be the first woman and the first non-white among them. But it is not yet clear who exactly that should be and who else could be on board. According to NASA, all current astronauts of the space agency are possible candidates. There should also be a Canadian astronaut – and European astronauts could also fly “Artemis” to the “Gateway” outpost and then even to the moon itself.

Do other countries also have moon plans?

China is also working on placing its own astronauts on the moon. The People’s Republic has landed on the surface of the moon several times with research robots, and has also successfully returned moon rocks to Earth. According to Chinese state media reports, a permanent station on the moon will be built in the next step in the 2030s. The research station could thus be set up and operated together with Russia. In addition, India and the United Arab Emirates, among others, have set their sights on the moon, albeit for the time being without concrete manned plans.

Is “Artemis 1” really completely unmanned?

There are no living people on board – but at least two dolls: Zohar and Helga. This is a project with German and Israeli participation. It is being tested whether a protective vest developed in Israel can effectively protect a female body against dangerous space radiation.

Only one of the dolls developed in Germany, which imitates the female body with bones, soft tissue and genitals, is said to wear the protective vest developed by Israeli startup StemRad. The torsos are equipped with radiation detectors. These are intended to show how great the load on astronauts’ internal organs would be during a lunar journey.

When was the last time humans walked on the moon?

That was almost exactly 50 years ago. “We’re going as we came, and God willing, we’ll come back the same way — with peace and hope for all humanity,” said NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan, who died in 2017, before departing in December 1972 with the The “Apollo 17” mission left Earth’s satellite again – as the last person to walk on the moon. Between 1969 and 1972, the US was the only country to take a total of 12 astronauts to the moon on the “Apollo” missions. With “Artemis” – twin sister of “Apollo” in Greek mythology – NASA now wants to catch up.


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