"Artemis": how the United States wants to gain a foothold on the moon

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"Artemis": how the United States wants to gain a foothold on the moon
"Artemis": how the United States wants to gain a foothold on the moon

The United States and its allies are firmly committed to landing on the moon in the 2020s. This should be only the first stage: then the creation of a permanent base and the "colonization" of the natural satellite of our planet will follow.


The article was published in Naked Science # 47.

Change of priorities

“Do you want to get to know a person better? Ask him about the moon landing. His answer will make it possible to immediately determine whether it is worth continuing to communicate with him, hiring him or signing a long-term contract,”wrote the famous Russian popularizer of science Vitaly Egorov. Indeed, almost none of the real experts denies that the United States has successfully landed on the moon six times, brought valuable samples to Earth and showed the whole world the capabilities of the American space industry.

On the other hand, the implementation of the landing on the moon, oddly enough, raised uncomfortable questions for the American authorities. What to do next? Where to go? What new goal for astronautics to choose tomorrow? And what mission should replace the Apollo program, within the framework of which people landed on a satellite of the Earth. The answer was a somewhat ingenious, but somewhat disastrous (due to the huge launch price) Space Shuttle, which, however, “flew off” its own way back in 2011. Now there is the ISS - the only place where American, Russian and European astronauts and cosmonauts fly.


However, already in the 2020s, the station may be decommissioned. Mars could become a new target for flights - and this was the desire of the progressive public. But she did not take into account one fact: the average distance to the moon is 384,403 kilometers. Meanwhile, the average distance from Earth to Mars is 225 million kilometers. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It is difficult to say how much it would cost to land a man on Mars: the Apollo program, for example, cost more than $ 130 billion by modern standards.


Washington also understands this. In 2010, the Constellation program, in which, in particular, they wanted to land a man on Mars, was officially curtailed: the economic crisis of 2008 and the financial problems of the United States finished it off. Donald Trump was also eager to conquer space during the election race. However, the supporters of landing on Mars were again out of luck: in 2017, the new president signed Directive No. 1, which calls for the return of Americans to an Earth satellite. From now on, all the efforts of the US manned astronautics are directed precisely at the moon. They had to forget about the Red Planet, not counting, of course, the ambitious Mars-2020 program, under which they want to send a new unmanned rover to Mars in 2020.

The main stages of "Artemis"

The further course of events was easy to predict. The moon became a political issue, and the Republicans wanted to make it a symbol of their greatness while they were in power: if Trump was reelected for a second term, he could just catch the flight of astronauts to the satellite. The deadlines were set extremely tight. In March of this year, the US President assigned the new head of NASA, Jim Bridenstine, the task of organizing a flight to the moon. And in May, Bridenstein announced the start of the Artemis program. In addition to American specialists, experts from Europe, Japan and Canada will take part in it, but the "first violin", of course, will be the US Space Agency.

According to previously presented data, the upcoming stages of the program look like this:

  • Artemis 1. In 2021-2022, they want to launch an unmanned capsule that will stay in orbit around the Moon for 25 days. Then she will return to Earth.
  • Artemis 2. As part of the next phase, scheduled for 2023, the first manned lunar flyby will be performed.
  • Artemis 3. In 2024, a man should land on the moon.

The proposed landing site has already been determined: it will be the area near the South Pole of the Moon. The first manned lunar mission will feature one man and one woman. They will stay on the lunar surface for six and a half days, twice as long as during the longest Apollo mission.

At the first stage, up to four spacewalks are planned and the implementation of a number of scientific tasks, in particular, the collection of water ice samples. Some of the equipment will already be on the surface at the time the first people disembark. Among them is the rover. Earlier it was reported that he will receive a drill and a number of scientific instruments for exploring the moon.

This, of course, is only the beginning: otherwise, the Artemis program would not differ much from Apollo. Now it is not so much about the landing as about how to gain a foothold on the surface of the moon for a long time. Build a base, conduct research and study a natural satellite for the presence of minerals there. Work in this regard, in particular, is carried out by the Colorado School of Mines and Honeybee Robotics. They have already proposed their own ways of using water ice on the lunar surface to extract rocket fuel components. These technologies can be applied in order to ensure life on the surface of the Earth satellite for a long time.

By the way, according to forecasts, the lunar base may appear after 2028: it will be designed for a 15-year period of operation. That is, we can talk about conditional colonization. However, of course, we are unlikely to ever see lunar cities or satellite terraforming. So far, these are only dreams. In addition, you need to understand that each of the missions "Artemis" can be postponed indefinitely. This applies even to the earliest stages: there is no need to talk about later ones.

What scientific goals can the Artemis program pursue? Like the ISS, a base on the moon provides almost unlimited scope for imagination: it will be possible to conduct research in a wide variety of fields with its help. By the way, earlier scientists from the Network for Exploration and Space Science said that they want to install a radio observatory on the far side of the moon. In this case, the absence of restrictions characteristic of the Earth's atmosphere will make it possible to better study distant astronomical objects: planets, nebulae, black holes. That is, everything that is of scientific interest.

Some believe that the long-awaited flight to Mars and the creation of a long-term base there may become the final chord of "Artemis": the experience gained during the study of the Moon should contribute to this. However, it must be taken into account that the flight to the Red Planet can only be carried out within the framework of a new, larger-scale initiative, which will require, as noted above, much more manpower and resources.

Technical means

Rocket. The Constellation program was born and died for a reason. She presented the States with projects, thanks to which, in general, it became possible to talk about a flight to the moon. The missions Artemis 1, Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 have one important component. As part of them, they want to use Boeing's Space Launch System super-heavy launch vehicle, which is technologically based on the unrealized Ares V super-heavy rocket project. It was to become one of the main tools for the Constellation implementation.

What is the Space Launch System, or SLS? Simply put, this is the most powerful rocket of all that is now and which should appear in the foreseeable future. Recall that today the super-heavy Falcon Heavy, created by SpaceX, is recognized as the most powerful. The SLS will be even more powerful: if the brainchild of Elon Musk is capable of placing up to 63 tons into low reference orbit (LEO), then the Space Launch System will be able to deliver from 95 to 131 tons to LEO, depending on the modification.


Let's make a clarification. A promising rocket and spacecraft from SpaceX called the Big Falcon Rocket could have even more impressive performance. However, Musk's concept has already undergone changes more than once, gradually decreasing in size. Another thing is more important.If the Space Launch System has specific dates for subsequent launches, then the Big Falcon Rocket has only plans and a prototype. But this is not at all a stone in SpaceX's vegetable garden. It's just that the SLS missile is being created much longer, in addition, it boasts more clearly formulated tasks.

From a purely structural point of view, the Space Launch System is a two-stage launch vehicle using proven technical solutions: there are no “fashionable” methane engines on it. Four RS-25D / E liquid-propellant rocket engines will be installed at the first stage, and an RL-10B-2 engine at the second. In addition, the rocket will take off from the Solid Rocket Booster, a solid-propellant rocket booster from the Space Shuttle. This is, recall, the largest and most powerful rocket engine ever created. Each Solid Rocket Booster has a length of 45.5 meters, a diameter of 3.7 meters and a launch weight of 580 tons, of which about 499 thousand kilograms is solid fuel, and the rest falls on the structure itself. Each booster has a starting thrust (at sea level) of approximately 12.45 MN.

It is this "monster" that the Americans will use for flights to the satellite of our planet. And so far there are no real alternatives to it in the world, apart from the aforementioned BFR, as well as the hypothetical Russian super-heavy missiles Don and Yenisei and the same hypothetical Chinese carrier Changzheng-9. They may appear at the end of the next decade, or they may never appear at all.

Spaceship. If the SLS launch vehicle is an indirect successor of the Constellation program, then the manned spacecraft Orion is the most direct one. Lockheed Martin has been creating it since the mid-2000s, and it completed its first unmanned test flight back in 2014.

Purely conceptually, the ship is similar to two other promising reusable American ships - Crew Dragon and CST-100. However, unlike them, Orion is created specifically for long-term expeditions: it will not fly to the International Space Station. The launch mass of the Orion spacecraft is 25 tons, dimensions are 3, 3 by 5, 3 meters. Up to six crew members can be on board in comfortable conditions. The internal volume of the spacecraft is approximately one and a half times greater than the internal volume of the Apollo: the volume of the cabin of the new vehicle is 9 m³.

In general, there is every reason to believe in the success of the project. On July 20, US Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at the Kennedy Space Center and showed a ready-made capsule for the Orion crew that they want to use as part of the Artemis 1 mission. appear in front of astronauts.

Landing module. To imagine the future lunar module, you can recall the appearance of the Apollo descent module. Let's consider the issue in more detail using the example of a module proposed in the fall by Boeing. According to this initiative, the new apparatus will be two-stage, with both stages using high-boiling fuel. The descent module is designed for three astronauts: the Apollo lunar module, we recall, accommodated two.

It is known that the new device will use some technical solutions borrowed from the CST-100 spacecraft. However, according to experts, there are many conventions: after all, the ship was not designed for the Moon, but for the ISS (as noted above).


The main components of the lander are a "transfer element" to a low lunar orbit, a "descent element" for descent to the lunar surface, as well as a "lift element" for delivering astronauts from the satellite surface to the so-called "Lunar lock".

Lunar Gateway. This is an orbital station known as the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. This is a lunar station that can be considered as a future replacement for the ISS. It will make one revolution around the moon in about seven days. Gateway (abbreviated name) will be large - however, significantly smaller than the ISS.


Now "Lunar Lock" is seen as an intermediate point for astronauts who will land on the moon.Moreover, they want to build the station in a relatively short time: in 2022 they plan to launch the PPE electric motor module - the first for the station. And already in 2023, they want to launch the so-called Minimal Habitation Module, or a small residential module, which they intend to use to implement the landing on the moon in 2024. And this is just the beginning: after the implementation of the listed missions, other modules will be launched, including from NASA's international partners.

Spacesuits. On October 15, 2019, the US Space Agency showed new spacesuits in which astronauts will explore space as part of the Artemis mission. One of the suits will be used aboard the Orion spacecraft, and the other will be used for landing on a satellite of our planet. The latter will provide fundamentally new opportunities. “Astronauts don't have to 'jump on the surface of the moon.' The new spacesuits will allow you to "really walk," - said the head of NASA Jim Bridenstine. The lunar spacesuit (Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, xEMU) can support operation on an earth satellite for up to eight hours: another hour of the resource was reserved for emergency situations. The weight of the prototype device is 90 kilograms excluding the mass of life support systems. It is noteworthy that the astronaut must literally enter the spacesuit through the door in the back: this solution was previously used by Soviet engineers.

Another piece presented - the Orion Crew Survival System (OCSS) flight suit - has a bright orange color: its concept is based on maximum compactness, convenience and safety. Under normal conditions, it is not under pressure, but in case of danger, for example, during depressurization, it can create excess pressure and increase the survival of crew members. The spacesuit also partially protects against radiation. An astronaut can stay in it for up to six days.

Russia's participation

For Russian manned astronautics, the Moon is of the utmost importance. After the proposed decommissioning of the ISS, the Russian Soyuz will have nowhere to fly, so there is little choice. On the other hand, so far there is no specificity on this matter.

Previously, the Russian heavy-class carrier "Angara A5" was considered as a means of delivering goods and people to the Gateway station - at least along with American missiles.


However, problems soon began. Last year it became known that the United States is demanding from Russia to build a gateway module according to Western technical standards. According to an informed source, it was about all power supply systems, ensuring the thermoregulation of the module and life inside it, as well as the interfaces. In addition, the Americans suggested using their spacesuits instead of Russian ones. “We are still being kept in the project, but they would have gotten rid of it with great pleasure,” a source from the Russian rocket and space industry said at the same time.

Representatives of private business are also talking about landing on Mars, but without the participation of NASA and government funding, a flight to a distant planet is something of a fantasy. This is indirectly confirmed by the Mars One project, in which businessman Bas Lansdorp offered those who wanted to land on Mars in the 2020s. Most experts considered him a fraud. In 2019, the media reported that Mars One was bankrupt.

However, there is nowhere to go. Russia, most likely, will not be able to implement its own program of flights to the moon: for this there is no money, no technology, no political will. This means that Roskosmos should try its luck with its Western partners. Otherwise, Moscow will have to completely abandon manned astronautics.

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