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Space mission Artemis: Nasa plans exploration mission of Mars – together with Elon Musk

Created: 9/3/2022 1:29 p.m

„Artemis“-Mission der Nasa
NASA’s new moon rocket is being prepared. © Brynn Anderson/AP/dpa

On Saturday, Nasa will launch the second attempt to send the Artemis 1 rocket to the moon. If the US space agency has its way, this is just the first step on mankind’s journey to Mars.

Cape Canaveral – 50 years ago humans last walked on the moon. On Saturday, the US space agency Nasa is attempting to send the Artemis rocket towards the moon. This is initially “a small step for mankind” because it is an unmanned test flight. But as early as 2024, people are expected to set foot on the moon’s surface again – and in the long term, the space agency is planning the “next big step”: exploring Mars.

Back to the moon: Nasa gives 2.41 billion order to Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX

When eccentric multi-billionaire and world’s richest person Elon Musk says he’d like to make Mars his home, that’s one thing. But when the US space agency Nasa joins forces with Musk’s space company SpaceX, it gives the mission a certain seriousness, even if there is no doubt about Musk’s innovative spirit.

“Thank you to the SpaceX team for helping us with our trip to the moon,” NASA’s Artemis mission wrote on Twitter in April. Elon Musk was proud to be part of the team. The SpaceX boss once announced with a wink that he would like to die on Mars – just not on impact. The billionaire from South Africa not only shares the space agency’s Mars visions, he fueled them. Because SpaceX revolutionized space travel as a private company by constructing reusable rockets.

The SpaceX boss is certain that “mankind will reach Mars in our lifetime”, as he recently wrote on Twitter and sees this as a great opportunity for mankind. “Without a common goal, people just fight each other. The moon brought us 69 together, Mars will do the same in the future,” Musk said, referring to the successful Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

NASA has commissioned SpaceX to build a lunar module for the Artemis 3 for around 2.41 billion euros. It is said to be a shuttle that will take astronauts from the Artemis rocket’s Orion capsule to the lunar surface and back again. The Starship spacecraft is to take on this task; a prototype of the model had already completed a successful test flight in 2021. The cooperation between Nasa and SpaceX has been quite successful so far: only recently was the first completely private crew on the International Space Station ISS – the cooperation between Nasa, SpaceX and Axiom made history. At the time, NASA boss Bill Nelson spoke of a “new era of manned space travel.”

From Artemis 1 to Artemis 3: NASA is planning this by 2025

Artemis 1 is an unmanned test flight of a 98 meter high Space Launch System rocket, SLS rocket for short, and the Orion crew capsule sitting on it. Instead of astronauts, mannequins equipped with sensors are on board, which record vibrations, acceleration and radiation values. Cameras document the 42-day journey.

The Orion capsule is designed to orbit the moon and come within 100 kilometers of it. A record is also planned, as the capsule is then to fly up to 64,000 kilometers behind the moon – farther than a spaceship intended to transport people has ever been. In particular, the heat shield is to be tested, which must withstand a speed of almost 40,000 kilometers per hour and a temperature half as hot as that of the sun’s surface when it returns to the earth’s atmosphere. After the mission, the capsule is scheduled to return to Earth.

The next phase, the Artemis 2 mission, is to bring astronauts into orbit around the moon as early as 2024 – a landing is not planned then. Only with Artemis 3 should astronauts actually land on the moon – and not as part of the Apollo program near the equator, but this time at the south pole of the moon. There, water was detected in the form of ice. This third stage of the program is scheduled to take place in 2025. According to an independent review, however, this is not expected until 2026 at the earliest. If Artemis 3 is successful, the nose plans crewed lunar flights about once a year.

JSpaceX Starship elon musk nasa weltraummission artemis mars mond
Thermal tiles cover the SpaceX spacecraft Starship (stock image, July 1, 2022). © IMAGO/San Antonio Express-News/Zuma Wire

Back to the moon – and even further: Nasa plans exploration mission of Mars

Nasa wants to go back to the moon – permanently. SpaceX is therefore to build a shuttle for Artemis 3 that can transport astronauts back and forth between the Orion crew capsule and the lunar surface. In the long term, the Artemis program wants to build a space station called Gateway that will orbit the moon permanently. The start of the first two elements, a residential module and the energy and drive system, is scheduled for the end of 2024 at the earliest. Astronauts are expected to stay on this space station for between 30 and 60 days. The SpaceX shuttle should then be able to pick up the astronauts at Gateway and transport them to the moon. The space station serves a larger vision: Gateway is to serve as a way station for journeys to Mars in the future.

The big goal of the Artemis program is what NASA calls the “next big step”: human exploration of Mars. The Artemis program is intended to prepare trips to Mars, including through the knowledge gained in the areas of vehicles, drives and space suits.

Nasa wants to set up a base on the moon

The NASA experts also want to find out how people can stay in space for a long time. Only limited data are available on this. Few people have been in space for more than a year, one of them was US astronaut Scott Kelly. He was four centimeters taller when he returned, he reported at a NASA press conference. His skin was also more sensitive. This sounds familiar to fans of the science fiction series “The Expanse”, they think of the long-term effects of long stays in space without gravity that the “belts” have to contend with: reduced bone density, for example, or muscle atrophy. The latter has also been proven in astronauts. To counteract muscle loss, astronauts train for about two hours a day in space.

A base is to be built there so that astronauts can stay on the moon for up to two months in the future. The moon is only a few days’ flight away from the earth – Mars, on the other hand, is at least several months away. But before humans reach Mars for the first time, Nasa must complete the first stage of the Artemis program: the launch of Artemis 1. The first attempt to send the rocket to the moon on Monday (August 29) had to be canceled due to technical problems and postponed to Saturday (September 3rd) due to the weather. The two-hour window for a possible start on Saturday opens at 2:17 p.m. local time (8:17 p.m. German time), and spectators can follow the spectacle live online. Anyone dreaming of a trip into space can fly virtually through our solar system with Google Maps (AFP/bme) .

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