NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has raised concerns about China’s ambitions in space and stressed the importance of the United States returning to the Moon before other countries. Speaking at a recent press conference, Nelson outlined plans to establish a long-term lunar base, following in the spirit of the Apollo missions, to facilitate further exploration of the Solar System.
The Artemis program, NASA’s initiative to send humans back to the Moon, is well underway. Artemis I, an unmanned test flight, has already been completed successfully, paving the way for Artemis II, a manned mission. The goal of landing on the Moon’s south pole is driven by the potential presence of water and ice, which are crucial for human survival in future missions.
Nelson is adamant about ensuring that resources on the Moon, especially water, are accessible to all and not controlled solely by one country. In contrast, Russia’s Luna-25 mission holds similar aspirations but is perceived as less of a threat due to collaboration and limitations.
Artemis II, scheduled for November 2024, will involve four astronauts going around the Moon for a ten-day journey. The mission will serve as a crucial test for the Orion capsule and Space Launch System rocket. Commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover, mission specialist Christina Hammock Koch, and the Canadian Space Agency’s mission specialist Jeremy Hansen make up the crew of Artemis II.
During the mission, NASA plans to conduct experiments on the effects of radiation on the crew. Engineers are also working on upgrading and fixing components of the capsule and rocket based on lessons learned from the first test flight, as preparations continue for the mission.
However, one major issue that NASA is currently working to resolve is the heat shield of the Orion lunar capsule burning up more than expected. Addressing this issue is crucial before NASA can proceed with returning humans to the Moon.
As the United States and other countries accelerate their plans for lunar exploration, the race to establish a presence on the Moon intensifies. With NASA’s Artemis program, the US is determined to lead the way, emphasizing the importance of regaining its position as the foremost space power.
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