As excitement mounts for NASA’s first Artemis mission, the uncrewed Artemis I launching later this month, the agency has revealed more about its plans for future crewed moon missions. The Artemis III mission will see humans set foot on the moon for the first time in 50 years, and NASA has now shared the 13 potential lunar locations where they could land.
The 13 locations are around the south pole of the moon and were chosen for reasons of both accessibility and geological interest. “Several of the proposed sites within the regions are located among some of the oldest parts of the Moon, and together with the permanently shadowed regions, provide the opportunity to learn about the history of the Moon through previously unstudied lunar materials,” said Sarah Noble, Artemis lunar science lead for NASA’s Planetary Science Division, in a statement.
The permanently shadowed regions are important because they are some of the areas most likely to hold water ice, a key lunar resource. During a stay on the lunar surface of around a week, astronauts will perform a moonwalk to investigate these areas. They also need to be close to some areas of sunlight, as this will provide power for the mission.
“Selecting these regions means we are one giant leap closer to returning humans to the Moon for the first time since Apollo,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for the Artemis Campaign Development Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “When we do, it will be unlike any mission that’s come before as astronauts venture into dark areas previously unexplored by humans and lay the groundwork for future long-term stays.”
To decide which of the 13 sites will be the eventual landing spot, NASA will discuss the possibilities with scientists and engineers in a series of workshops and conferences. In addition, the agency will work with SpaceX, which will be providing the lander for the mission to make sure the landing site is safe for the vehicle. The Artemis III launch is currently scheduled for 2025.
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