NASA selects sites on the Moon where two astronauts could land in 2026

The SLS rocket sits atop the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center prior to the launch of Artemis 1.

The SLS rocket sits atop the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center prior to the launch of Artemis 1.
Photo: Nasa

NASA returns to the Moon, but first the space agency needs to decide where it’s going Park. Friday he revealed 13 candidate landing regions near the south pole of the Moon for the Coming Mission Artemis 3which aims to land a man and a woman on the lunar surface.

Each region is approximately 10 by 10 miles (15 by 15 kilometers), and they each contain several landing sites with a radius of approximately 328 feet (100 meters). “A region can be thought of as a series of parking lots, whereas a site is a single parking spot for a lander,” said Jacob Bleacher, NASA’s chief exploration scientist. said Friday during a press briefing.

A rendering of the 13 candidate landing regions for Artemis 3 near the South Pole of the Moon.

A rendering of the 13 candidate landing regions for Artemis 3 near the South Pole of the Moon.
Drawing: Nasa

NASA has collected data on these regions using its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)launched in 2009 and still orbiting the Moon. LRO has mapped the polar regions of the Moon, and the orbiter has been key in helping NASA determine where it can earth hanging future moon assignments. Artemis 3 is targeting the south pole of the Moon, an area that has generated great interest since its may contain water ice in its shadowy regions. Water on the Moon is seen as a huge boon for future space exploration, providing astronauts with valuable space resource that would support a sustained presence on the lunar surface.

The South Pole has areas that are permanently plunged into darkness and other areas that are constantly bathed in sunlight. Jhis light-at-darkness ratio varies such small distances only a few kilometers. “Find more locationsthat-medium amounts of light allow us to design systems that take advantage of light for energy and thermal control,” Bleacher said. “Similarly, the locations of permanent shadow that are unique to the poles provide opportunities for water and other volatile substances trapped there.” So while the South Pole has some advantages, NASA also has lots of technical issues to consider when deciding where to land.

“The Apollo landing sites were kind of in the middle part of the near side, and now we’re going to a completely different place, to different, ancient geological terrain,” said Sarah Noble, head of lunar science. of Artemis, during the briefing. NASA formed an agency-wide team of scientists and engineers who reviewed decades of data to assess the accessibility of South Pole landing regions by ensuring safe landing, ease Communication, and appropriate lighting conditions. The team also looked at the capabilities of NASA Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and Starship human landing system from SpaceX. After two years of deliberation, the team came up with the 13 landing regions that are close at the south pole.

The space agency is working on narrowing this listing as the launch date for the Artemis 3 mission approaches. Currently, this mission will not take place untilre 2026. Some of the landing sites are only accessible during specific launch windows, so have options gives the space agency more flexibility to launch the Artemis 3 mission throughout the year.

NASA’s SLS rocket is currently sit straight on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida awaiting launch for the unmanned Mission Artemis 1. The mission is currently scheduled for oneAugust 29, with backup windows available September 2 and 5. Artemis 2, which is currently scheduled for late 2024, will have a crew aboard the Orion capsule for the trip to the Moon but will not land on the surface. That’s the job of Artemis 3, which could launch as early as 2026, in which NASA plans to land a man and a woman at the south pole of the Moon.

Unlike Apollo, the Artemis program does not only want landing humans for brief stays. Its objective is to establish and maintain a presence on and around the Earth’s natural satellite. It would be a springboard to many more ambitious project: the first human journey to Mars.

After: What to know about Lunar Gateway, NASA’s future lunar-orbiting space station

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