This week marks one year since I named America’s 21st-century lunar exploration program Artemis after the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon. As we fast-tracked our goal of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, and establishing a sustainable lunar presence later this decade, NASA and our partners have made incredible progress.
The Artemis program represents a new era where robots and humans will work together to push the boundaries of what’s possible in space exploration. Our return to the Moon includes taking all of America with us. We graduated a diverse new class of astronauts in January and just closed our latest call for future Artemis Generation explorers, receiving more than 12,000 astronaut candidate applications.
We are also prioritizing private industry innovation to enhance our ability to return to the Moon. We’re working with American companies on everything from delivering exciting new science investigations and technology experiments like the Volatiles Investigating Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the surface of the Moon with our Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative to developing the Gateway to designing modern human landing systems (HLS), one of which will take NASA astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the world’s most powerful rocket, has made fantastic progress toward launch on the uncrewed Artemis I mission. Engineers integrated all four RS-25 engines into the rocket and completed assembly of the massive core stage. Currently, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, we are preparing to conduct the critical Green Run test on SLS later this year. We have fully assembled and tested our Orion spacecraft for Artemis I too. We have successfully demonstrated the spacecraft’s launch abort system, performed extreme environment testing, and sent Orion to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for future integration with SLS and launch.
The foundation of the Gateway – including the power and propulsion element as well at the habitation and logistics outpost or HALO – are currently under development and will now be integrated on Earth for a single launch in 2023. We are also working with international partners at CSA, ESA, Roscosmos, and JAXA on other key elements for sustainable missions at the lunar outpost.
Working with industry on HLS is notable as this is the first time since the Apollo era that the agency has directly had funding for human lunar landers. This exciting final step in our acquisition process puts all the pieces in play needed to explore the Moon quickly and sustainably.
Inspiring future generations to help us confront the challenges of human space exploration is vital to the success of Artemis and all of NASA’s future. These are just a few highlights of our year – and I’m proud that NASA is on track for sustainable human exploration of the Moon for the first time in history because of the herculean effort of our team. The momentum we have amassed will help us overcome the logistical and technical changes ahead. I have full confidence that year two of the Artemis program will be just as productive as our first.