Getting astronauts back to the moon is one thing. Getting them to live on the satellite is another. But NASA believes this second challenge can be accomplished by the end of the decade.
Humanity will not just return to the Moon to take a few steps on the surface. She will also settle there permanently. In other words, humans will stay there, instead of just making a brief visit to the satellite. And, it will happen sooner than you think. A lunar base is also planned from this decade.
In any case, this is the perspective given by Howard Hu, the head of the Orion space program at NASA, during an exchange with the BBC November 20, 2022. On the occasion of the maneuvers of the Orion capsule around the Moon, which is part of the Artemis program, the person concerned expressed the plans of the American space agency to settle there.
The landing of astronauts on the Moon is planned for 2025
Humans staying on the Moon by 2030? It’s an ambitious deadline, but it’s not necessarily unrealistic: the return of humans to the Moon for the first time since December 1972 (the last mission was Apollo 17) is taking place within the framework of a new plan several stages: Artemis 1, Artemis 2, Artemis 3, Artemis 4, and so on.
The Artemis 1 mission has been underway since November. It consists of carrying out a life-size test including the baptism of fire of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the sending of an unmanned capsule around the Moon and its return to Earth, with a landing in the ocean. Take-off from the SLS went well. It now remains to pass the lunar stage.
Artemis 2 will consist of redoing this flight, but putting a crew on board Orion. This mission is scheduled for 2024. Then comes Artemis 3 in 2025, with a first exploration of the Moon by astronauts. Artémis 4 and 5, expected in 2027 and 2028, continued this momentum. These dates are indicative: NASA may revise its schedule at any time.
Howard Hu did not specify what he meant by a settlement of humans on the Moon – how long, for example, would a stay there be – a few days, a few weeks, a few months? When and how will the modules be sent to ensure the habitability of the surface? What about supplies? What will they do there?
By way of comparison, a typical stay on board the International Space Station (ISS) lasts about 6 months – a period that can be extended from time to time if there are scheduling problems to transport or repatriate personnel. But, the ISS is very close to the Earth, at an altitude of 400 km. The trip only lasts a long day. The Moon is 384,400 km away.
These questions will find answers as the Artemis program progresses. Nasa, of course, is already preparing the missions after Artemis 1 – for example, the agency has reached an agreement with SpaceX for the American company to participate in Artemis 4. Even if, in the immediate future, NASA is concentrating especially on Artémis 1. Its success will depend on the rest.
In principle, the Orion capsule should return to Earth in mid-December.