On September 12, 1962, then-President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, set a goal for the United States to send astronauts to the Moon before the end of the 1960s.
In a speech he gave from Rice University in Texas at the height of the Cold War, Kennedy said: “We chose to go to the moon (…) not because it is easy, but because it is a difficult task.”
Sixty years later, the United States came close to launching the first mission within its “Artemis” program to return to the moon, but it begs the question of why it managed a mission it had previously completed.
Criticism of the US space agency (NASA) in this regard has intensified in recent years, including by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, who blamed NASA for not setting larger goals, such as go straight to Mars.
However, the US space agency considers it necessary to go to the moon before any mission to the red planet. These are their main arguments:
Upon returning to the Moon, NASA wants to establish a permanent human presence on it with shipping missions that stay for several weeks on its surface, while the previous “Apollo” mission lasted only a few days. Through this end, NASA seeks to gain a clearer understanding of how to prepare for the launch of a multi-year mission to Mars.
Space radiation on more distant planets is more intense and poses a major threat to human health. The low orbit where the International Space Station operates is partially shielded from the Earth’s magnetic field, which is not present in the case of the Moon.
Starting with the first “Artemis” mission, several experiments are expected to study the effect of this radiation on living organisms and evaluate the effectiveness of anti-radiation jackets.
While it is possible to resupply the International Space Station, trips to the Moon (a thousand times further than the station) are more complicated in this regard.
To avoid the need to transport everything needed during missions and consequently reduce costs, NASA wants to learn how to use the resources that are already on the surface of the moon, the most important of which is water in form of ice that has been confirmed to be found at the south pole of the moon, and can be turned into fuel (water is made up of oxygen and hydrogen that rockets use as fuel).
NASA also wants to test on the Moon the technologies that will allow it to go to Mars, the most important of which are new spacesuits intended for missions outside of vehicles. The company commissioned Axiom Space to design the suits for the first mission to land on the moon, which is expected in 2025 at the earliest.
Other equipment that NASA needs to test includes vehicles (compact or uncompressed) that allow astronauts to move around, as well as housing.
With the goal of creating a permanently available source of energy, NASA is developing portable nuclear fission systems.
It will be much easier to solve whatever problem astronauts face on the Moon, which takes days to reach, than on Mars, which takes at least several months to reach its surface.
Among the other goals of the Artemis program is the construction of a space station in orbit around the moon called Gateway, which will serve as an intermediate station before missions to Mars.
Sean Fuller, an official of the “Gateway” program, explains to AFP that all the necessary equipment can be sent in “several launches”, before the crew follows it on a long journey, noting that this step is similar to the process of stop. at a gas station and making sure that the health is correct. Work all the details.
In addition to preparing for missions to Mars, the Americans, through the “Artemis” program, want to establish a human presence on the Moon before China takes this step.
While competition in the space race between the United States and Russia was fierce in the 1960s, China is now Washington’s most prominent competitor. Beijing plans to send humans to the moon by 2030.
And NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a television interview in late August: “We don’t want China to go to the moon and say ‘This is our land.'”
Although the Apollo mission brought 400 kilograms of moon rocks to Earth, new samples will improve scientific knowledge about the moon and its composition.
“The samples collected within the Apollo mission changed our view of the solar system,” astronaut Jessica Meyer told AFP, noting that this development in scientific knowledge “will also continue with the Artemis program.”
Mayer hopes that the “Artemis” program will lead to tangible results on the planet (technical developments, engineering developments…) similar to what happened as a result of the “Apollo” mission, due to the investments and scientific enthusiasm associated with new missions to the moon.