NASA’s Artemis missions: return to the Moon

NASA Artemis Missions

NASA’s Artemis missions will return humans to the Moon, establish a long-term presence, and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

This program, named after the twin sister of Apollo, aims to build upon the legacy of the Apollo missions.

Three-phase approach

Artemis has a three-phase approach that involves testing and refining key technologies, establishing a presence on the Moon, and eventually, sending astronauts to Mars.

First phase, which is underway, involves testing and refining the necessary technologies, including the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS).

Second phase is focused on establishing a presence on the Moon, including the construction of a Gateway, a reusable lunar lander, and a Moon base.

Third and final phase involves sending astronauts to Mars.

Difference between Apollo and Artemis

While the Apollo missions were focused on one-time trips to the Moon, Artemis missions are focused on establishing a long-term presence on the lunar surface. The program aims to build the infrastructure and critical systems needed for sustained exploration.

Illustration of the Moon with Artemis infrastructure NASA

Landing sites

NASA has targeted the Moon’s South Pole for establishing a base camp because of its high points with sunlight for 200 days, which is ideal for a solar power station. The South Pole region is also believed to have deposits of water ice that can be extracted and used for drinking, fuel, and other resources. NASA has identified 13 candidate landing sites for the Artemis III mission that have deposits of water ice.

13 candidate Moon landing sites NASA


A key feature of the Artemis program is the construction of a small space station called Gateway in a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. The Gateway will serve as a staging point for lunar missions, a hub for scientific research, and also provide a place for astronauts to live and work.

Illustration of the Gateway and lunar lander NASA
Gateways near rectilinear halo orbit NRHO NASA


One of the most significant advantages of the Artemis program is the presence of water on the Moon, which can be used to sustain life and support exploration. Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be used as fuel for rockets and other spacecraft. Water can also be used for drinking, cleaning, and other purposes.

NASA’s Lunar Prospector missions and Moon Mineralogy Mapper have made significant discoveries about the presence of water on the Moon. They have identified areas near the Moon’s South Pole that have deposits of water ice, which can be extracted and used for resources.

Water on the moon illustration Photo credit NASA

Competition and collaborations

NASA is not the only space agency interested in exploring the lunar South Pole. China’s Chang’e 4 and Chang’e 5 missions have explored the region, while Russia’s Luna 25 robotic mission and India’s Chandrayaan III lander are planned for the near future. China and Russia have also announced plans to collaborate on the International Lunar Research Station.

Explore the solar system

The Artemis program represents an exciting opportunity to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon, utilize the resources available on the lunar surface, and take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

The race to the Moon has sparked interest from spacefaring countries worldwide, as they vie for locations rich in scientific potential and natural resources.

To truly establish a permanent presence on the Moon, we must look beyond the Artemis mission and consider the long-term benefits the moon could offer to scientific research, life on Earth, and our ability to explore the solar system.


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