When discussing plans to explore the Moon under our Artemis program, I often get asked a lot of “why” questions. As in – why go back to the Moon and not somewhere else? Why now? Why NASA? Or even, why explore at all?
There are many reasons to go back, or as you may have heard me say, go forward to the Moon. With Artemis, we’re going to explore more of the Moon than ever before, and this time, we’re planning to stay. We are traveling 250,000 miles to the Moon to demonstrate new technologies, capabilities and business approaches needed for future exploration of Mars, which can be as far as 250 million miles away from home.
With Mars as our horizon goal, we need to take steps to get there, and the Moon is the next logical one. Today, our astronauts are living 250 miles above us in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station – something we’ve continued to do for almost 20 years. This is an incredible feat for humanity and international cooperation. If there’s an emergency on station though, we can have our crew home in a matter of hours. On and around the Moon, we will build on our experiences from station and learn to live and work days away from Earth. We need this step before we send astronauts on a mission to Mars, which can take years round-trip.
Science and technology will lead us there
We have successfully explored the Moon robotically for many years since humans last walked on the surface in 1972. We want to take what we’ve learned from missions like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and couple that knowledge with new science investigations and technology demonstrations in new locations across the Moon.
Working with our partners, we will send a suite of new instruments to the lunar surface on commercial robotic landers to study the Moon and prepare for our human return. Our goal is to send the first woman and next man somewhere we’ve never been before: the lunar South Pole. We’re targeting this area for a landing by 2024 because we believe it is rich in potential resources including water. Finding those resources, successfully extracting them, and ultimately converting them into other uses will help us further our exploration into the solar system.
As we did with Apollo, we hope our exploration of the Moon will inspire a new generation – the Artemis generation – and encourage more students to pursue careers in STEM. We will need astronauts, scientists, engineers, and more as we push boundaries for humanity and explore the vast wonders of our universe for decades to come.
With our Artemis program, we will once again establish American leadership and a strategic presence on the Moon while also expanding our global impact here on Earth. Since we’re not going alone this time, we’ll use the Moon to broaden and strengthen our commercial and international partnershipsacross a variety of programs. Our partnerships are critical to ensuring we reach the surface by 2024 and establish sustainable exploration by 2028. Together, we will get ready to explore Mars in the 2030s.
Again, there are many reasons to go to the Moon, and these are the main drivers for why NASA is going. Need more info? In our latest episode of #AskNASA, Jim Green, the chief scientist here at NASA explains from his point of view why we are going, talks more about converting the ice in the poles into drinkable water and rocket fuel, and more. Take a look!