10 questions about NASA’s new Artemis mission and how you can watch the launch

What is Artemis, where is it going and how will it get there?

Artemis is NASA’s new moon – or lunar – mission which will feature three rocket launches starting from August 2022 and hopefully finish with a colony on the moon later this decade.

It will use new technology developed by companies around the world to explore the moon and potentially build a long-term presence on the lunar surface.

Why is it called Artemis?

The original American moon mission program was named ‘Apollo’ after the Greek sun god. Dr Abe Silverstein – the director of space flight programs at NASA in the fifties – said he chose the name after reading a book on mythology at home in 1960:

“Apollo riding his chariot across the sun was appropriate to the grand scale of the proposed program.”

As Artemis is the mythological twin sister of Apollo, the name honours this part of NASA’s spacefaring heritage.

When will Artemis 1 launch?

Artemis 1 is an uncrewed test flight of the Orion spacecraft and a new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Artemis 1’s first launch opportunity is a two-hour window on 29 August 2022 from 8:33am (EDT) (12.33pm GMT).

In Australia that means the launch could take place within two hours from 10.33pm AEST.

Will Artemis 1 land on the moon?

Artemis 1 will send the Orion spacecraft into lunar orbit over a period of 25-42 days before it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

Infographic showing the journey of artemis 1.
NASA’s Artemis 1 flight will send the Orion Spacecraft into lunar orbit / Credit: NASA

What about other launches? Will Artemis 2 and 3 put people on the moon?

Artemis 2 and 3 will send astronauts to the moon. Artemis 2 is the second mission of the program and will effectively repeat the first mission, but with a human crew. This will put the Orion spacecraft into crewed orbit around the moon before it returns to Earth.

Artemis 3 will go one step further – putting the world’s first woman and person of colour on the lunar surface. Artemis 3 aims to land people on the moon and bring them home “no sooner” than 2025, among them, the first woman and person of colour. It will be the first crewed moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.

What is the current Artemis mission timeline?

Artemis 1: Uncrewed test flight of the Orion spacecraft and space launch system rocket. Scheduled for 29 August 2022.

Artemis 2: Crewed test flight to the Moon. Scheduled from 2024.

Artemis 3: Landing on the Moon. Scheduled from 2025.

What technology will the Artemis mission use?

The Artemis Space Launch System (SLS) is what will be used to send astronauts, equipment and spacecraft to the moon. NASA describes it as “the most powerful rocket [they’ve] ever built” thanks to its ability to generate almost four million kilograms of thrust when the fuse is lit.

The Orion spacecraft is the ship that will transport the new batch of NASA astronauts through space. It consists of service, crew and command modules. It also features a new launch abort system to provide added protection to astronauts.

10 cubesats will join the Orion spacecraft in visiting the Moon. These tiny satellites will be used to detect water and other lunar resources that could offset the need to ferry cargo to the Moon in future missions.

Gateway (also known as the Lunar Gateway) is set to be the first space station orbiting the moon. Orion will be capable of docking dock with the Gateway to enter the Moon Landing Module and travel to the lunar surface. Gateway is also set to act as a space lab to study heliophysics (the study of the sun and how it interacts with the rest of the solar system), human health and life sciences.

Artemis Base Camp is a new concept being developed by NASA that would give astronauts a ‘home base’ on the moon. It includes a cabin, rover and mobile home to help achieve short-term surface stays. Over time, NASA hopes to develop Base Camp to allow for stays of two months.

Who is flying on Artemis 1?

Artemis 1 is an uncrewed test flight. But although no real humans will be on Artemis 1, it will contain some ‘passengers’, among them, three mannequins (or Moonikins). Sensors attached to these mannequins will provide NASA with information on the forces that might be experienced by human astronauts in the Artemis 2 and 3 launches.

Shaun the Sheep, four Lego figures and Snoopy will also ride along as mascots, with the latter functioning as the zero gravity indicator for the mission. 

Shaun the sheep floating in zero gravity
Shaun the Sheep floating in zero gravity / Credit: ESA/Aardman

Who are the Artemis astronauts?

The 18 US astronauts who will be flying to the Moon are Joseph Acaba, Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Victor Glover, Warren Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Christina H. Koch, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole A. Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins and Stephanie Wilson.

Can I watch the launch?

You can watch the live stream of the Artemis 1 launch below.

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