NASA’s Artemis program aims to bring humans back to the Moon, with the goal of staying there forever in order to perform additional science and exploration missions, including to Mars. However, how will NASA make it possible for astronauts to remain on the Moon on long-term scientific missions?
"After 20 years of continuously living in Low-Earth orbit, we are now ready for the next big challenge of space exploration: the development of a sustained presence on and around the Moon," state NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine.
The new 13-page report presented to the National Space Council, an advisory group to US President Donald Trump chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, provides more details on its sustainable plans that describe some central components of the infrastructure that NASA plans to install on the lunar surface that sums up the space agency’s vision to justify and achieve the 2024 moon landing.
On only six occasions have astronauts walked on the Moon; all the trips made by NASA as part of its Apollo program.
Three key elements of the Artemis base camp
- The VLT vehicle, which can transport crew around the site (it would not have a closed cabin, so astronauts would wear extravehicular activity (EVA) spacesuits while using this vehicle.
- A liveable mobility platform for long-term trips away from the base (basically a larger fully enclosed and pressurized rover, which will allow longer trips from the spacecraft landing site up to 45 days).
- The foundation surface habitat, which will allow short stays (perhaps a week) for four crew members (the "fixed home" for the crew during their stay on the Moon).
"La movilidad es una parte importante del campamento base de Artemisa", se lee en el informe. "Se necesitarán sistemas de movilidad robustos para explorar y prosperar en la luna. Lo mismo para Marte, haciendo de la plataforma de movilidad habitable un elemento particularmente importante ya que necesitaremos un tipo similar de vehículo para explorar el Planeta Rojo".
"Mobility is an important part of Artemisa’s base camp," reads the report. " Robust mobility systems will be needed to explore and thrive on the moon. The same for Mars, making the habitable mobility platform a particularly important element as we will need a similar type of vehicle to explore the Red Planet.”
In the long term
This facility would also require infrastructure for energy, waste disposal and communications, as well as radiation protection and a landing platform. The base could also be a good place to try new techniques to deal with the annoying moon dust and the long, cold moon nights, turning local materials into valuable resources such as water and developing new energy and construction technologies.
"These missions will be by far the longest lasting deep human space missions in history. They will be the first operational tests of the preparation of our long-lasting deep space systems and the operations of the divided crew that are vital to our approach to the first human mission on Mars,” the report notes.