Why 2022 is important for returning to the moon

The Artemis I mission, the first flight of the program to return humans to the moon, is scheduled for 2022.

Humans will not set foot on lunar soil again in 2022. But the year remains decisive in this new phase of the space adventure: a mission called “Artemis I” should be launched early this year.

Artemis Project

Humans haven’t returned to the Moon since 1972 – so 2022 will be 50 years. That’s what NASA, in partnership with other major space agencies, intends to change. The program is called Artemis. Astronauts have been selected, and they may once again set foot on lunar soil with brand new space suits.

Engineer Kristin Davis wears a new spacesuit. // Source: NASA

The plan would require the construction of a space station in lunar orbit, called the Lunar Orbital Platform Portal (or Lunar Portal, “Lunar Portal”). It’s supposed to be a permanent base from which astronauts will follow each other and will serve as a relay station for trips to the moon.

The scientific focus of the project is also well known. For example, it’s a matter of better explaining the history of the effects of the Earth-Moon system, or even viewing the universe and our local space environment from our satellites.

The manned mission to the moon will launch astronauts in the Orion capsule, a new heavy-duty space launcher that has passed the touchstone in mid-2021.

Why 2022 is important for returning to the moon
An artist’s impression of the lunar portal: what it will look like after construction. // Source: Wikimedia/CC/NASA

First Takeoff: Artemis I

The Artemis I mission will be the program’s first flight. Goal: Put the Orion spacecraft into orbit around the moon. The trip is expected to last 25 days, including 6 days in orbit. But for the first mission, there were no astronauts on board because it was a test. A kind of dress rehearsal.

We can expect to take off in the first half of 2022: as early as February 2022, but with additional launch windows in March and April.

If this mission is successful, especially ensuring the safety of the crew and the launcher functioning well, the next mission – Artemis II – is scheduled for spring 2024. This time, it will be inhabited. But Artemis II won’t send anyone to the moon: the crew will fly around the moon in the cockpit of Orion. There should be four astronauts on board.

Why 2022 is important for returning to the moon
An artist’s impression of the Orion habitable capsule. // Source: NASA

To see astronauts set foot on lunar soil, the current schedule holds hope for a manned Moon landing with Artemis III in 2025. Likewise, four astronauts will board the Orion capsule. Only two people will go to the moon, while two people will stay in the lunar space station (which will then be established as planned).

As the Artemis program logo suggests, the distant goal is to go beyond the moon: the Lunar Gateway space station could serve as an outpost for manned missions to Mars.

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Source: NASA

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