The Artemis 1 mission will kickstart the next era of crewed space exploration.
By Robert Lea
The next era of crewed space exploration is about to dawn, with NASA’s Artemis program gearing up to send humans back to the moon for the first time in over half a century. And this milestone will eventually lead to the first human setting foot on the surface of Mars, if all goes according to plan.
On Aug. 29, the Space Launch System (SLS) — the most powerful rocket ever built by humanity — is scheduled to blast off from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, kicking off the Artemis 1 mission.
The main payload of the SLS will be the Orion spacecraft, which will be sent farther into space than any vehicle intended for humans has ever traveled before. This will serve as a crucial test for future Artemis missions that will see Orion carry a woman and a person of color to the surface of the moon for the first time.
That will be a stunning achievement in its own right. But putting astronauts on the moon for the first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972 has a bigger goal: establishing a sustainable human presence on and around the moon and developing infrastructure that will allow humans to go even deeper into the solar system.
Indeed, NASA sees the moon as a “proving ground” for the human exploration of Mars, as then-agency chief Jim Bridenstine said in 2018.