Why go back to the moon?

Why go back to the moon?

Why go back to the moon?

On September 12, 1962, then US President John F. Kennedy briefed the public of his plan to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

It was the height of the Cold War and America needed a big victory to prove its space superiority after the Soviet Union launched the first satellite and put the first man into orbit.

“We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy told 40,000 people at Rice University, “because that challenge is a challenge that we are willing to accept, that we are not willing to postpone and that we intend to win.”

Sixty years later, the United States is about to launch the first mission of its return to the moon program, Artemis. But why repeat what has already been done?

Criticism has increased in recent years, for example from Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins and Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin, who have long argued that America goes straight to Mars.

But NASA argues that regaining the Moon is a must before a trip to the Red Planet. Here because.

– Long space missions –

NASA wants to develop a sustainable human presence on the Moon, with missions lasting several weeks, compared to a few days for Apollo.

The goal: to better understand how to prepare for a multi-year journey to Mars.

In deep space, the radiation is much more intense and poses a real threat to health.

The low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station (ISS) operates, is partially protected from radiation by the Earth’s magnetic field, which is not the case with the Moon.

Since the first Artemis mission, many experiments are planned to study the impact of this radiation on living organisms and to evaluate the effectiveness of a radiation vest.

Also, while the ISS can often be refueled, trips to the Moon, a thousand times farther away, are much more complex.

To avoid having to carry everything with them, and to save costs, NASA wants to learn how to use the resources on the surface.

In particular, water in the form of ice, which has been confirmed to exist on the lunar south pole, could be turned into rocket fuel by breaking it into its own separate hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

– Test new equipment –

NASA also wants to fly technologies to the moon that will continue to evolve on Mars. First, new space suits for spacewalks.

Their design has been entrusted to the Axiom Space company for the first mission that will land on the Moon, at the latest in 2025.

Other needs: vehicles, both pressurized and unpressurized, so that astronauts can move, as well as habitats.

Finally, for sustainable access to an energy source, NASA is working on the development of portable nuclear fission systems.

Solving any problems that arise will be much easier on the Moon, a few days away, than on Mars, which can only be reached in at least several months.

– Establish a waypoint –

One of the pillars of the Artemis program is the construction of a space station in orbit around the Moon, called the Gateway, which will act as a link station before the journey to Mars.

All the necessary equipment can be sent there in “multiple launches”, before being finally joined by the crew to set off on the long journey, Sean Fuller, head of the Gateway program, told AFP.

“Kind of like you’re stopping at your gas station to make sure you get all the stuff, and then you leave.”

– Maintain leadership over China –

Aside from Mars, another reason given by the Americans to settle on the moon is to do so before the Chinese, who plan to send taikonauts by the year 2030.

China is now the United States’ main competitor as the once proud Russian space program has vanished.

“We don’t want China to come suddenly and say,” This is our exclusive territory, “NASA chief Bill Nelson said in a recent interview.

– For the sake of science –

While the Apollo missions have brought nearly 400 kilograms of lunar rock back to Earth, new samples will allow us to further deepen our knowledge of this celestial object and its formation.

“The samples we collected during the Apollo missions changed the way we see our solar system,” astronaut Jessica Meir told AFP. “I think we can also expect it from the Artemis program.”

Further scientific and technological breakthroughs are also expected, just like during the Apollo era.

la / ia / dw

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.