April 13, 2024

NASA’s Artemis IV: Building the First Lunar Space Station

NASA and its partners are developing the foundational systems needed for long-term exploration of the Moon for the benefit of everyone with NASA’s Artemis campaign. Following the Artemis III mission, which will land the first people near the Moon’s South Pole, Artemis IV astronauts will live and work on humanity’s first lunar space station, Gateway, which will enable new opportunities for science and preparation for human missions to Mars. The mission will bring together an intricate choreography of multiple spacecraft launches and dockings in lunar orbit, and will feature the debut of NASA’s larger, more powerful version of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and new mobile launcher.

Artemis Generation Science

The Artemis missions are accelerating scientific research on the surface of the Moon and soon in lunar orbit aboard the Gateway. Built with international and commercial partnerships, the Gateway will include docking ports for a variety of visiting spacecraft, space for crew to live, work and prepare for missions to the lunar surface, and instruments for scientific investigations to study heliophysics, human health and science. life. among other areas.

The Gateway’s oval orbit passes over the North and South Pole areas of the Moon and provides unparalleled opportunities for science and access to the lunar surface. The orbit combines the benefits of surface access from low lunar orbit with the fuel efficiency of distant retrograde orbit, while offering unique views of the Earth, Moon, Sun and deep space for scientific study.

Prelude to the mission

The Gateway is taking shape on the ground and engineers will connect its first two modules – the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) built by Maxar, and the Housing and Logistics Outpost (HALO) built by Northrop Grumman — for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The elements will spend about a year traveling to lunar orbit, taking advantage of highly efficient solar-electric propulsion and the gravity of the Earth, Moon and Sun to reach their destination. Several science instruments on HALO and PPE will provide science data on radiation during transit and while the Gateway is in lunar orbit.

Once in orbit around the Moon, the Gateway’s computers will analyze a list of items to prepare for the arrival of a second habitation element with the Artemis IV crew – the International Habitation module, or I-Hab, provided by ESA (European Space Agency). ). I-Hab will expand where Gateway astronauts will live, work, conduct innovative science and prepare for their missions on the lunar surface. The I-Hab also includes the critical life support systems provided by JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) to enable longer stays aboard the Gateway.

Before launching the crew and I-Hab with the SLS rocket, NASA and its partners will pre-position two additional spacecraft for the mission: SpaceX’s Starship Human Landing System, which will carry next-generation spacesuits for moonwalks, and the SpaceX Dragon XL. logistics module carrying scientific experiments and other supplies for the mission. An upgraded Starship will support Artemis IV with expanded capabilities for long-term exploration and future missions, including docking with the Gateway.

Greater boost for the crew, module destined for the Moon

Four members of the Artemis IV crew will blast off from launch pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard the agency’s Orion spacecraft on NASA’s upgraded SLS rocket. The Block 1B version of the rocket is capable of lifting 84,000 pounds to the Moon using a more powerful upper stage, and also has an adapter with more than 10,000 cubic feet of space to send large payloads, like the I-Hab, to the Moon along with the crew. NASA’s new mobile launcher will accommodate the larger rocket, which will be about 40 feet taller than current configurations, and additional weight due to increased payload capacity.

After the SLS rocket completes its initial launch and ascent, the core stage will separate from the upper stage, which will remain connected to Orion and I-Hab. After the upper stage performs a translunar injection burn to put Orion and I-Hab on their way to the Moon, Orion will act as a space tug, rotating 180 degrees to extract the I-Hab from the adapter using Orion’s docking system. and transporting the module to the Gateway, where it will connect to the lunar station’s HALO module.

Surface Operations

When Orion and I-Hab meet with the Gateway, Orion will position the I-Hab to dock with the HALO module. Astronauts will enter the world’s first lunar space station and fully activate its hardware and systems, and the crew will also check out the human landing system, unload supplies and scientific experiments from the logistics module, and prepare for their work on the Moon.

After several days performing initial checks aboard the Gateway and preparing for the surface expedition, two crew members will enter the Starship and undock to spend about six days on the lunar surface. The other pair remain at the Gateway to continue configuration, conduct research and monitor surface activities.

As with Artemis III, astronauts will perform multiple moonwalks, donning advanced spacesuits and taking the starship’s elevator to the surface to fulfill their list of exploratory tasks. The crew will perform field geology, deploy instruments and collect samples that will help us understand the history of our solar system.

Until next time (Artemis V)

With surface expeditions complete, the two astronauts will board Starship, fly back to Gateway, and all four astronauts will prepare for the quarter-million-mile trip back to Earth aboard Orion.

Before departing the Gateway, the crew will transfer scientific samples to Orion and prepare the outpost to operate without human tenants. Then, after reaching the ideal starting point, Orion will undock, start its engines and take advantage of the Moon’s gravity to return home, where recovery teams will await the return of the crew in the Pacific Ocean.

With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman, first person of color and first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration for scientific discovery and to prepare for human missions to Mars. The agency’s SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft and ground support systems, along with the next-generation human landing system, spacesuits and rovers, and Gateway are NASA’s foundation for deep space exploration.

Artemis IV Mission Map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *