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NASA’s Artemis 1 mission

Context:

NASA’s Orion capsule is scheduled to splash down back to Earth. The Orion’s landing in the Pacific Ocean will mark the end of the inaugural Artemis 1 lunar mission exactly 50 years after Apollo’s final moon landing.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Artemis I Mission:
  2. Aims of Artemis 1
  3. How is Artemis 1 different from NASA’s earlier lunar missions?

About Artemis I Mission:

  • It’s been a half century since the six Apollo human Moon landings between 1969 and 1972.
  • Since then, spacecraft have travelled beyond the solar system, exploratory missions have probed Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, more than 500 astronauts have made return trips to space, and permanent space labs have been set up.
  • What remains to be achieved, however, is the promise of transporting humans to new worlds, of landing and living on other planets, or maybe meeting aliens.
  • In the missions that will follow, human beings will go back to the Moon, explore the possibilities of long lunar stays, and assess the potential of the Moon as a launch pad for explorations into deep space.
  • While the mission objectives of Artemis 1 itself are humble — it is only a lunar Orbiter mission even though, unlike most Orbiter missions, it has a return-to-Earth target — it is intended to lay the foundations for more complex and ambitious missions.
  • The CubeSats it will carry are equipped with instruments meant for specific investigations and experiments, including searching for water in all forms and for hydrogen that can be utilised as a source of energy.
  • Biology experiments will be carried out, and the impact of deep space atmosphere on humans will be investigated through the effect on dummy ‘passengers’ on board Orion.
  • The SLS rocket, the most powerful ever built, will also be on test for its potential for more ambitious missions in the future.

Aims of Artemis 1

  • Artemis 1 is being seen as NASA as a stepping stone to much greater things.
  • It is the first in a series of missions that are planned to not only take humans back to the Moon, but to also explore the possibilities of extended stay there, and to investigate the potential to use the Moon as a launch pad for deep space explorations.
  • The Artemis missions will build on the existing achievements of space technologies over the past few decades, and lay the foundations for more complex and ambitious missions in the future.
  • It will work towards extracting the resources found on the Moon, build from the materials available there, and harness hydrogen or helium as energy sources.

How is Artemis 1 different from NASA’s earlier lunar missions?

  • Although their objective is to ensure the return of humans to the Moon, the Artemis missions — named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister — are going to be qualitatively very different from the Apollo missions of 50 years ago.
  • The Moon landings of the 1960s and 1970s were guided by Cold War geo-political considerations, and the desire of the United States to go one up on the Soviet Union — which had scored by launching the first satellite, Sputnik, and the first spacecraft, Luna 2, to crash on to the lunar surface, and sending the first man to space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
  • So President made a public announcement in 1961 that the US would put a man on the Moon before the decade was out.
  • That deadline was met, thanks to a massive mobilisation of resources towards that end.
  • But the technology ecosystem wasn’t fully ready yet to fully realise the potential of that monumental scientific breakthrough — and the astronauts who landed on the Moon could do little more than bring back samples to Earth for investigations.

-Source: Indian Express


February 2023
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