When NASA officially announced the Artemis program last year, it revealed its plans to land the next man and the first woman on the Moon in 2024. It’s no small feat, so it’s no surprise that there are aerospace experts who remain unconvinced that a goal that big can be achieved in a such a short timeframe. Now, the agency has published the Artemis Plan, which details (PDF) how it would take humanity back to the Moon in four years’ time.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency has “solidified more of [its] exploration plans in recent months” and has “continued to refine [its] budget and architecture.” The agency goes over the program’s progress to date in the document and identifies its key missions, as well as the partnerships it has forged to be able to land astronauts on the Moon. While you may already know some of the information it contains, the Artemis Plan will give you a pretty comprehensive look at what NASA has achieved — such as the Orion and SLS tests it has conducted so far — and still has to achieve in the next few years.
The document explains the kind of scientific tests the astronauts have to conduct (and the samples they have to collect) when they get to their destination. It also details the role the Lunar Gateway will play to establish a permanent presence on the Moon, such as how it will provide basic life support needs for astronauts preparing for their trip to the lunar surface.
For those who’ve been keeping a close eye on the Artemis program, NASA also included additional details, including a new test it plans to run during the Artemis II mission. Artemis II will be the program’s first crewed flight and will take astronauts on a lunar flyby. The new test will be a “proximity operations demonstration” to assess Orion’s manual handling capabilities and all related hardware and software. It will provide NASA the data it can’t get from on-the-ground preparations but needs to have for the actual Moon landing mission.
In an introduction he wrote for the document, Bridenstine says:
“Under the Artemis program, humanity will explore regions of the Moon never visited before, uniting people around the unknown, the never seen, and the once impossible. We will return to the Moon robotically beginning next year, send astronauts to the surface within four years, and build a longterm presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.
I am proud to share NASA’s Artemis Plan—this is how we will go to the Moon once again. And how we will use the Moon as the stepping stone for our next greatest leap—human exploration of Mars.”