It’s been over 45 years since Americans set foot on the Moon. While we learned a lot in the early days of space exploration, NASA has plans to expand humanity’s reach in the solar system in the coming years.
Thanks to international and commercial partnerships, NASA plans to put Americans on the Moon’s surface once again by the year 2024.
The goal will be not to just visit the Moon, but to build architecture there that supports human life. As NASA says, “When we go to the Moon, we’re there to stay.”
2024 marks the beginning of a new era in space travel. Once we refine the process and architecture for life on the Moon, humanity will turn its gaze to Mars.
Why return to the Moon?
Man has already been on the Moon; why do we need to return?
The International Space Station has been paving the way for long-term human existence in space. Setting up an outpost on the Moon will further our scientific understanding of life in space.
Returning to the Moon will also yield other benefits, such as:
• Scientific discoveries:
By combining international and commercial resources, NASA is able to efficiently and affordably explore the reaches of space. Because they’re able to iterate and explore more quickly, we’ll be able to benefit from more scientific discoveries. The 2024 Moon mission will also deepen our understanding of the Moon.
• Economic development:
Space exploration has the potential to open up avenues for economic development, such as mining and tourism.
• Moon to Mars approach:
The Moon missions will be a testbed for Mars. It’s a way to prove that we can sustain life long-term far away from the Earth’s surface.
Humanity’s return to the lunar surface
Before lunar missions can occur, NASA has to overhaul its rocket and engine systems. They will use Orion spacecraft to transport the astronauts, which will NASA’s advanced, powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
NASA partnered with over 1,000 U.S.-based organizations to build this rocket with unprecedented power. When the shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA repurposed its existing 16 engines to use with the SLS rocket. But they had to modify these engines to operate at a higher level for the incredibly heavy SLS rocket.
NASA’s team designed new engine controllers and pushed the engine power to the necessary 111%. They can safely operate up to 113%, which was confirmed with dozens of safety tests.
Before sending astronauts to the Moon, NASA will conduct Exploration Mission-1. They will send the unmanned Orion craft to the Moon to conduct experiments and safety tests.
Humans will visit the Moon during Exploration Mission-2 once the unmanned mission is successfully completed. The 2024 mission will carry 4 crew members to the lunar surface on an Orion spacecraft.
NASA will create Gateway, a craft designed to orbit around the Moon with astronauts on board. Gateway will orbit the Moon 250,000 miles away from Earth. The craft will protect astronauts but also give them access to the lunar surface. NASA plans to launch the first element, a propulsion system, by 2022.
NASA is partnering with commercial companies to deliver robotic payloads and supplies to the Moon’s surface in the coming years. This preparation will enable astronauts to stay on the Moon long-term.
From the Moon to Mars
We’re dreaming of the day mankind sets foot on Mars, but we need to achieve many milestones before that can become a reality. In the meantime, NASA’s 2024 Moon mission will lay the groundwork for exploration beyond Earth.