The Artemis Missions
On January 10, 2020, NASA’s first batch of graduates under the Artemis program became eligible for assignments to the International Space Station, the Moon and Mars. The batch, nicknamed the “Turtles” have completed more than 2 years of basic training. They consist of 6 women and 7 men, 2 of them hailing from CSA (Canadian Space Agency). Of these brave men and women, one of them could be the first woman to set foot on the surface of the Moon and the first human to set foot on Mars. They were selected for training from a pool of more than 18,000 applicants in 2017 (when the Artemis program was first announced). NASA is considering plans to open applications for a new batch of astronauts for training in spring of this year.
The graduation ceremony saw each man and woman awarded with a silver pin, a tradition that started with the Mercury 7 astronauts in 1959. The silver pin signifies the completion of basic training and will be switched with a gold variant after the completion of the astronauts’ first testflight.
How we’re going back to the moon
The Artemis program aims to achieve the lofty goal of putting humans on the moon for a span of a few months to a couple of years, in 6 stages; beginning with Artemis I – the first human spacecraft to the moon in the 21st century, followed by Artemis II – the first crewed flight test of the Space Launch System Orion and finally Artemis III – the first crewed lunar mission since the last ones in 1972 (accompanied by 3 support missions between the Artemis II and Artemis III missions), putting humans on the moon, again, by 2024.
These set of lunar missions aim to establish “sustainable exploration” by 2028. They will also help NASA gather information and build experience, which will inevitably help them put humans on Mars (planned to happen in the mid 2030s).
The architecture that will help make this mission a reality features the Space Launch System – first deep space rocket since Saturn V, a lunar Gateway, the Orion spacecraft (capable of taking upto 4 astronauts to the Gateway) and new Artemis Generation Spacesuits. The Orion spacecraft will also provide life support systems to the orbital outpost on early missions.
Accompanied by modern Lunar Landers, built to be a part of a human landing system and upgraded launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building and firing room at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Artemis missions will surely be successful in putting humans in places previously considered unreachable by humanity.
The training process
The two year training program had the candidates studying topics such as robotics, International Space Station systems, T-38 jet proficiency, instruction, practice and testing in spacewalking, going through a multitude of simulations and learning Russian. The duties of these new astronauts include helping develop spacecraft, support the teams currently in space and of course, be a part of a crew in a space mission to the Moon and possibly Mars. Only about 500 people have had the honor of exploring the dark depths of space before.
This group of men and women represent the best of humanity and will help solidify America’s position as a leader in the field of space exploration.
As put by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas “I congratulate these exceptional men and women on being the first graduating class of the Artemis program. They are the pioneers of the final frontier whose work will help fortify America’s leadership in space for generations to come. I am excited for the opportunities ahead of them.”