US Vice President Mike Pence announced last week (Dec. 9, 2020) that NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis team. Two of these astronauts are expected to become the first American man and woman to return to the moon since 1972. That manned lunar mission could start as early as 2024 (although there has been recent rumblings, the date may be shifted). Pence introduced the astronauts of the Artemis team on Dec. 9 at the 8th National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. You can watch them introduce themselves in the video above (from about 1 minute).
NASA said it will later announce flight assignments for astronauts, based on the Artemis team.
Here you will find names and short biographies for the Artemis team members.
Meanwhile, despite a reported malfunctioning component of the cone-shaped Orion space capsule – the vehicle that will transport the astronauts – all indications so far are that the first Artemis mission, an unmanned mission, is still scheduled to launch in November 2021 from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. That mission will be Artemis 1.
The launch in November 2021 will be a test of both the Orion capsule and the rocket intended to launch it, the so-called SLS or Space Launch System.
The second Artemis mission – scheduled for 2023 – will test Orion’s critical systems with people on board. This is expected to be the first manned mission to travel beyond low Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.
Then comes the Artemis 3 mission, the one that is expected to bring astronauts to the moon, hopefully in 2024. The Artemis program is part of US President Donald Trump’s Space Policy Guideline 1, approved in December 2017. The goal set is to return to the moon. astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 and to:
… Laying a foundation for a final mission to Mars.
The Artemis program is named after Apollo’s sister in Greek mythology.
EarthSky’s lunar calendar shows the moon phase for every day in 2021. Order yours before they are gone! A great gift.
In the Artemis 1 mission, the Orion crew module and SLS rocket are expected to launch together from Kennedy Space Center’s historic 39B launch complex. The SLS – a rocket more powerful than the Saturn V that propelled the Apollo astronauts to the moon – will produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust (39 million newtons) at launch with its five boosters and four engines at six million pounds (2.7 million kg). ) of the vehicle in orbit.
After the boosters are released, the engines shut down and the rocket’s nuclear stage (main body) is separated from the spacecraft.
Following are a series of engineering phases of propulsion that will give Orion the power it needs to leave Earth’s orbit and head towards the Moon, but not before some small satellites called CubeSats are underway. These CubeSats will conduct a series of experiments and demonstrations unrelated to the Artemis deep space mission, such as exposing living microorganisms to a radiant environment in deep space for the first time in more than 40 years.
Once in orbit, Orion will collect data and enable mission controllers to assess its performance for about a week. When Orion is ready to return home, he will use his space propulsion system from the European Space Agency (ESA), along with the moon’s gravity, to return to Earth.
The ESA service module will – in addition to propulsion in space – provide power, air and water for the astronauts of future missions.
About three weeks and more than 1.3 million miles (2.1 million km) later, the Artemis 1 mission will end with a test of Orion’s return capabilities by landing him at a salvage vessel off the coast of Baja, California. This may all sound like a lot of complicated, technical work. The NASA video below illustrates the entire Artemis 1 mission.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has delayed testing of SLS, the trial is now resuming at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Boeing led the construction of the megarocket SLS and is now in a testing process called the green run. It will culminate in a hot-fire test, where the missile fires its engines while tied to the ground, enduring every step of a launch as if it were actually happening. This test run was originally scheduled for November 2020 and is now scheduled for the end of December. This delay may leave little margin to keep things on track for the launch of Artemis 1 in 2021.
After the hot fire test, the core stage will be refurbished and taken to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for even more testing. Orion development, led by Lockheed Martin and Airbus Defense and Space, has suffered its own delays, although the spacecraft is on track to begin preparations for the launch of Artemis 1 in the first half of 2021.
The second mission – the Orion manned capsule test mission, Artemis 2 – is scheduled for August 2023.
Future manned reconnaissance missions aboard Orion will dock at Gateway, an outpost that NASA plans to build in orbit around the moon to support sustainable, long-term human return to the lunar surface. NASA Director of the Moon Marshall Smith said:
We don’t all have to take the big leap at the same time. For a future mission, after demonstrating that we can go to the moon and get a lander to work, we can have them both docked at the Gateway.
In short, NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis team. Two members of this team are expected to become the first American man and woman to return to the moon since 1972. The first Artemis mission – an unmanned test mission known as Artemis 1 – is still expected in November 2021. The Artemis program aims to carry humans back to the moon and eventually on to Mars.
Read more from EarthSky: NASA will be testing its SLS megarocket in the coming weeks