Man hasn’t walked on the Moon in more than 50 years, but NASA astronauts are almost ready to go back.
This week, at a press conference, the space agency talked about 13 possible landing sites for its Artemis III mission. All of the candidate regions are near the south pole of the moon, which is a key area for both science and exploration.
Mark Kirasich, deputy administrator for the Artemis Campaign Development Division at NASA, said, “Choosing these regions brings us a big step closer to putting people back on the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program.” The main office of NASA is in Washington.
“When we do, it will be different from any other mission we’ve done before, because astronauts will go into dark areas that humans have never been to before and lay the groundwork for future long-term stays.”
NASA looked at Faustini A Rim, Peak Near Shackleton, Connecting Ridge, Connecting Ridge Extension, Gerlache 1 and 2 Rim, Gerlache-Kocher Massif, Haworth, Malapert’s Massif, Leibnitz Beta Plateau, Nobile rim 1 and 2, and Amundsen’s rim as possible landing spots for Artemis III.
The regions all have different types of geological features
Each of these areas is within six degrees of the south pole of the moon, and they all have different types of geological features. All of the possible Artemis III launches could land in one of these areas. Launch window times depend on where the spacecraft will land, so having multiple regions makes it possible to launch at different times of the year.
Sarah Noble, Artemis lunar science lead for NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said, “Several of the proposed sites in these regions are in some of the oldest parts of the Moon, and together with the permanently shadowed regions, they offer a chance to learn about the Moon’s history through previously unstudied lunar materials.”
To choose the regions, a group of scientists and engineers from the agency surveyed the area near the south pole of the Moon using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and decades of scientific papers and findings about the Moon. In addition to the launch windows, the team also looked at how safe it would be to land on the moon in each area. They used things like the slope of the land, how easy it would be to talk to Earth, and how bright it would be.
“This will be the first time we land a human lander at the South Pole. It will also be the first time a Starship lands, so we need to pay close attention to the engineering and safety limits of the mission and the vehicle,” Kirasich said.
The analysis team weighed the other landing criteria against the specific science goals of Artemis III. One of these goals was to land close enough to a permanently shadowed area to let the crew do a moonwalk while keeping the landing as quiet as possible. This will give the crew a place where they can take samples and do scientific research without getting in the way. This will give them important information about the depth, location, and make-up of the water ice that has been confirmed at the south pole of the Moon.
The regions are always exposed to sunlight for six and a half days
The team found areas that could help reach the goal of the moonwalk by making sure they were close to areas that were always in the shade. They also took into account other lighting conditions. The 13 regions have places that are always exposed to sunlight for six and a half days, which is how long the Artemis III surface mission is expected to last. Sunlight is important for staying on the Moon for a long time because it gives you energy and keeps the temperature from changing too much.
NASA’s chief exploration scientist, Jacob Bleacher, said that making a plan to explore the solar system means learning how to use the resources we have while keeping the scientific integrity of the plan.
“Water ice on the moon is important for science and as a resource because we can get oxygen and hydrogen from it to use as fuel and to keep life going.”
NASA will put a woman on the Moon for the first time
The agency will talk about the 13 regions with scientists and engineers in general at conferences and workshops to find out what they think about each one. This information will be used to choose new sites, and NASA may find other places to think about. The agency will also keep working with SpaceX to confirm that the spacecraft can land and look at options based on that.
NASA will choose sites in the region for Artemis III after figuring out when missions will launch, which will help them figure out transfer paths and surface conditions.
With Artemis, NASA will put a woman and a person of color on the Moon for the first time. This will pave the way for a long-term, stable presence on the Moon and help prepare astronauts for future trips to Mars.
NASA yet to launch the rocket to the moon
NASA has not yet launched the rocket that would take astronauts to the moon, and it has not yet chosen the crew that would explore the moon’s surface as part of its Artemis program. But it already knows where the astronauts will land on the moon.
The space agency said on Friday that it has chosen 13 possible areas at the South Pole of the moon. These areas are a long way from the areas that Neil Armstrong and the other Apollo astronauts explored. There is ice in the permanently shadowed craters at the South Pole.
The next mission to land people on the moon could happen as soon as 2025. This would be the first crewed landing on the moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972. NASA has promised to send people back to the moon’s surface. This is a bold plan that was started by the Trump White House and is now supported by the Biden White House.
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