Context: SpaceX has postponed the first test flight of the Starship rocket due to a technical issue.
- NASA has picked the Starship spacecraft for the Artemis III mission. Starship consists of a 50-metre-tall spacecraft designed to carry crew and cargo which is atop a 230-foot-tall first-stage Super Heavy booster rocket. It is the most powerful rocket ever built which is designed to send astronauts to the moon and Mars and beyond.
- The Artemis program is a series of missions for Moon exploration led by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) along with three partner agencies—the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
- Take humans to the Moon, explore the possibilities of extended stay there, and establish a permanent base on the Moon.
- Investigate the potential to use the Moon as a launch pad for deep space explorations and to facilitate human missions to Mars.
- The first in the series, NASA’s Artemis 1 mission was successfully lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida on November 16, 2022.
- Artemis 1 is an unmanned lunar orbiter mission to test the Space Launch System rocket of NASA and the Orion space capsule, in which astronauts will ride on future missions.
- Artemis 2 will be a 10-day long crewed mission where the four astronauts will fly around the Moon and return to Earth. The mission aims to test and stress Orion’s life-support systems to make sure that it is capable of supporting astronauts to live and work in deep space and collect valuable flight test data.
- After multiple manoeuvres, it will place the crew on a “lunar free return trajectory,” where Earth’s gravity will naturally pull the spacecraft back home after flying by the Moon.
- In the lunar free return trajectory, the spacecraft does not need any propulsion on its return journey. It takes advantage of the Earth-Moon gravity field to ensure the planet’s gravity naturally pulls it back.
- Expected to launch by 2024.
- Artemis 3 is a crewed mission which aims at landing humans on the Moon. It would be the first human landing on the moon by NASA since Apollo 17 in 1972.
- It will land the first woman and first person of colour on the moon.
- The four astronauts aboard the Orion module will dock with the Lunar Gateway and remain in space for 30 days. The landing system will then take two astronauts down to the Moon’s South Pole, a region previously unvisited by humans.
- The astronauts are expected to spend a week exploring the surface and perform a variety of scientific studies, including sampling water ice – first detected on the Moon in 1971.
- Expected to launch by 2025.