By 2024, NASA plans to have landed the first female astronaut on the moon but not without a little help from Mississippi.
Announced at the tail end of September, the Artemis program, which includes Phase 1 plans to land the first woman on the surface of the Moon, is intended to create “scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers.”
The high-powered engines of the agency’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will all be tested at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss. prior to exploration.
“Stennis’ role in [the Artemis program], which is a critical role, is we test the rocket engines that will power the rocket that is going to get us to the moon,” Stennis Associate Director John Bailey explained. “We’re about to go into a test that’s called the Green Run test on the SLS core stage…We’re going to fire all four main engines with the big fuel tanks filled up in our B-2 test stand, which will be the first test of this magnitude since the Apollo days.”
While making the long-awaited return to Earth’s natural satellite is the initial goal of Artemus, the overall objective of the program is learning how to get to Mars.
“The key difference this time is that we’re going to stay,” Bailey said when comparing the Artemis and Apollo programs. “We’re going to land on the moon, we’re going to put the first female astronaut on the moon in 2024, and we’re going to learn to live and work on the moon. All of that will be used to help us prepare to get to Mars.”
Over the course of seven days on the Moon, astronauts will collect samples, conduct experiments, plus search for, and hopefully extract, water and other convertible resources from regions of the moon that have never been touched by humankind.
The first mission, known as Artemis I, is scheduled for 2021 without astronauts. Artemis II, which will include the full crew, should be ready to fly in 2023, and Artemis III will be Earth’s first return to the moon since December of 1972.
Engine tests at Stennis Space Center are currently underway.