The Artemis program to put a woman on the Moon
America is planning to return to the Moon, it did not intend to stop after the original seven but global conditions made it hard for the US to continue to pay for the missions that in one respect were meant to beat the Russians to the Moon because they beat the Americans into space.
It has been over 50 years since anyone was willing to commit their Presidency and party to funding another attempt even as private companies began looking to do so themselves.
The unlikely champion that changed this was current US President Donald Trump directing NASA to return to the Moon in 2017. He optimistically thought it might be achieved in his 1st term in office, but revised that to require it done before he would need to complete his second.
I might be a bit unkind to say that Trump’s desire to return to the Moon is just to make himself look good, but he would not be the first. As much as President Kennedy sounded a clear call for America to go to the Moon, his motivations were as much to prove America better than the Soviet Union as to expand human knowledge. The Soviets for their part were not purely inspired by science either.
The other Trump requirement was to use private companies to achieve the goal. That could be seen as a good way to save taxpayers a big expense but it also be a way to allow American businesses to operate like the European colonists of old. That is not to say the ulterior motives do not still justify the attempt.
There is one thing that should hopefully be reset to pre-1969 times - the belief that the world is flat. YouTube may have popularised the idea, but not having been back for 50 years despite all the other innovation was enough to make people doubtful that we ever landed in the first place. It would take a special type of conspiracy theorist to maintain a view that the live broadcasts of most of the missions leading to the actual landings will all be an elaborate.
If all goes according to plan there will humans on the Moon by the end of 2024 and the intention is that we never leave again.
The logo for the Artemis Program. Nasa has a long heritage of creating badges and pins for each program and each flight.
Returning to the Moon
The newest US astronauts are called the turtles, a name that comes from a reference made by the US Vice President Mike Pence when welcoming the trainees to the program. He said, "There's an old saying that when you see a box turtle on a fence post, one thing you know for sure, he didn't get there on his own. And I know for every one of you -- those that are gathered here and those that are looking on -- have been there to lift you up, to hold up your arms and bring you to this extraordinary moment in your life.” It was not the first time Pence or other politicians have used the line, but it comes from an older joke that is less kind to politicians,
An old rancher is talking about politics with a young man from the city. He compares a politician to a "post turtle." The young man doesn't understand and asks him what a post turtle is.
The old man says, "When you're driving down a country road and you see a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle. You know he didn't get up there by himself. He doesn't belong there; you wonder who put him there; he can't get anything done while he's up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down."
Nevertheless the chosen 13 astronauts made it out of a pool of over 18 000 applicants and are more diverse than the original Apollo missions, not that it would take much as the Apollo missions were all white men.
The mission is named for the Greek god of the Moon, Artemis. You might think the original program should have been Artemis as Apollo was a sun god. Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo.
The first part involves the rocket to get the crew capsule to space and send multiple supply ships to begin construction of an orbiting lunar space station called Gateway and the many types of building needed on the Moon surface to sustain life on and around the Moon. The final element are the lunar landers that will shuttle humans from the orbiting lunar space station and the Moon. Three landers have been shortlisted to be built by three companies including SpaceX which begins its own manned flights to send astronauts to the International Space Station today.
SpaceX main ambition is to establish a permanent colony on Mars with Elon Musk saying he hopes to one day die on Mars (just not on landing).
It is a very tight schedule to get everything ready before 2024 and given the Covid-19 pandemic the consequences of a tiny virus may scupper the plans to return to the Moon once again.
While the huge rockets that will send astronauts to the Moon will not be re-used it is planned that the Moon bases, space station and landers must be reusable with fuel produced on the Moon to service future missions onwards to Mars.
The orbiting Moon station will also serve as a permanent communications link to the Moon from Earth and part of the deeper space communications network that would be needed to manage contact between the missions.
On the issue of communications it only takes light 1,3 seconds to reach the Moon, so communications with those based there should not be too difficult, however when we move to Mars live communication will be quite different as the best time a message might take to get from Mars to the Earth is three minutes. A conversation with 3 minute delays will be a real challenge.
Assuming the missions do all go ahead and we establish a new permanent human settlement on the Moon, a smaller but no less important frontier can be challenged. Humans have not officially had sex in space yet and while our efforts to find extraterrestrials have not succeed before it is only a question of time before one will be born.
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