Why is it important go back to the moon?
Marcia Lindstrom of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Astrobiologist Dr. Richard Hoover tackled those topics during separate presentations throughout June as part of the area’s celebration activities for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
“When we went the first time it was about getting there,” Lindstrom said during a presentation at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center June 6. “With great enthusiasm we’re being called to explore with an even greater cause to go farther than we’ve gone before and we must be able to sustain missions of greater distance and durations.”
She said pushing the bounds of humanity once again, the U.S. is going back to the moon by 2024 and explained how NASA’s Space Launch System, which Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center has a large hand in creating, will launch astronauts aboard the agency’s Orion spacecraft on missions to explore deep space.
The mission establishes American leadership and strategic presence, proves technologies and capabilities for sending humans to Mars, inspires a new generation and encourages careers in science, technology, engineering and math, she said.
It also leads civilization’s changing science and technology, expands the U.S. global economic impact, and broadens U.S industry and international partnerships in deep space.
She said the program is place because of President Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.
“If you’re paying attention at all to what’s going on at NASA with regard to human exploration and lunar exploration campaign it is changing fast and it is extremely exciting,” Lindstrom said. “It’s not just us. We are talking to all of our partners on International Space Station and Canada has already signed up to go with us for the next 24 years.”
How is it going to work?
“Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology. Now she personifies our path to the moon as the name of NASA’s program to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024,” Lindstrom said.
When they land, Artemis astronauts will step foot where no human has ever been before: the moon’s south pole.
Lindstrom said Artemis will see government and commercial systems moving in parallel to complete the architecture and deliver crew. It will involve the first human spacecraft to the moon in the 21st century, followed by a manned mission. It will utilize the first high power solar electric propulsion system and the first pressurized crew module delivered to the Gateway, a lunar outpost for astronauts. Then, the crewed mission to the Gateway and lunar surface, where the crew will use the infrastructure put in place on previous missions.
The Gateway is essential for the 2024 landing. It focuses on the minimum systems required to support a human lunar landing while also supporting the next phase. It will provide a command center and aggregation point for the 2024 landing, she said.
Once there, research will begin with space probes and instruments for moon and cosmos exploration, Hoover said during a June 20 presentation at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library.
Hoover conducted research at NASA and Marshall Space Flight Center from 1966 until he retired in 2012. He continues to work as a visiting research professor at the University of Buckingham Center for Astrobiology in the United Kingdom, conducts astrobiology research for Athens State University and is advisor for doctoral students at the joint Institutes of Nuclear Research in Russia.
He covered Marshall’s role in manned rockets and space exploration. Hoover is especially interested in the frozen water ice in deep craters of the moon’s surface that may sustain life.
Hoover said he believes returning to the moon may answer that mystery of “Are we alone?”
He said there’s evidence for water ice in the Shackleton Crater at the Lunar South Pole, which can provide rocket fuel and possibly cryopreserved viable extraterrestrial life forms.
In addition, the mission will eventually lead to further research of the North Polar ice cap on Mars. Hoover believes the upcoming missions will help Huntsville maintain its distinction as the Rocket City, and inspire future generations of space explorers.
“The basic thing is that it is so important to re-instill into the youth of America the kind of admiration we had for the great heroes of the American space program, the kind of knowledge that they will gain by becoming interested in science, engineering and mathematics, the kind of things that can help bring our country together and in fact, we may find out this mission may turn out to be a mechanism whereby the nations of the Earth can reunite.”
He said since the U.S. announced its intentions, China, India and the European Space Agency announced plans to return to the moon’s south pole.