NASA details what the return of astronauts to the Moon will be like

After two test missions, Artemis III , currently planned for 2025, will mark humanity’s first return to the lunar surface in more than 50 years.

NASA has published details about the Artemis III mission , currently scheduled for 2025, which will return astronauts to the Moon , in a region near the South Pole.

” Artemis III will be one of the most complex engineering and human ingenuity undertakings in the history of deep space exploration to date,” the agency states in a statement.

Four astronauts will depart from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard the Space Launch System (SLS) . The crew will be selected from among the most diverse astronaut corps in history, each gifted with unique abilities and intensely trained.

First, the crew will launch into Earth orbit, where they will perform systems checks and adjustments to Orion’s solar arrays . Next, a powerful boost from the SLS’s intermediate cryogenic propulsion stage will help Orion perform a translunar injection maneuver, heading for the Moon .

Over several days, the crew will travel to the Moon and perform corrective engine burns to intercept the lunar gravitational field. At the right time and place, Orion will perform a series of two engine activations to place the spacecraft into a near-rectilinear halo lunar orbit (NRHO). Out of hundreds of potential orbits, NASA selected the NRHO to achieve the long-term goals of Artemis . NRHO will provide near-constant communications with Earth and access to sites all over the Moon . Being gravitationally balanced between the Earth and the Moon , this orbit will maximize fuel efficiency. On future missions , NASAand its partners will assemble the Gateway lunar space station at NRHO to serve as the operations center for the Artemis missions.

Landing on a SpaceX Starship

NASA has selected SpaceX to provide the human landing system that will transport the Artemis III astronauts from Orion in lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and back.

SpaceX plans to use a unique concept of operations to increase the overall efficiency of its lander. Following a series of tests, SpaceX will carry out at least one uncrewed demonstration mission in which the Starship will land on the lunar surface. When the Starship has met all of NASA ‘s requirements and its high crew safety standards, it will be ready for its first Artemis mission .

Prior to the crew’s launch, SpaceX will launch a storage depot into Earth orbit. A series of reusable tankers will transport propellant to the storage depot to fuel the human landing system. The Starship’s uncrewed human landing system will then launch into Earth orbit and rendezvous with the storage depot to fill its tanks before executing a translunar injection engine burn and traveling approximately six days to NRHO, where will wait for the crew of the Artemis III.