Humans have not set foot on the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972. In just a few short years, that will change. As the Artemis I mission nears with the first launch of SLS, NASA has announced candidate locations for the human landing on the Moon that will come with Artemis III.
We are going.
Sure, it’s been said a ton, but it’s worth repeating.
It’s been 50 years since people have gone to the Moon, and we’re going back – to stay. In Greek mythology, Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo and as Apollo brought the first men to the surface of the Moon, Artemis will bring the first woman and the first person of color to the Moon.
NASA’s Space Launch System is the rocket that will launch the astronauts into Lunar orbit in the Orion capsule, but SpaceX’s Starship is currently the lander that will bring those astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and then back.
Right now, the first SLS rocket sits on NASA’s LC-39B at Kennedy Space Center ahead of its launch at the end of the month. That mission, Artemis I, will be an uncrewed test flight, but Artemis II and Artemis III will have astronauts on board. Artemis II will be a crewed flight into lunar orbit and Artemis III will be the first crewed lunar landing of the program.
Artemis Moon Landing sites
We’ve known that NASA is looking at the South Pole of the Moon of for the Human landings for a while, but now we have more specific locations. In a blog post today, the US space agency announced the following specific candidates for landing locations:
- Faustini Rim A
- Peak Near Shackleton
- Connecting Ridge
- Connecting Ridge Extension
- de Gerlache Rim 1
- de Gerlache Rim 2
- de Gerlache-Kocher Massif
- Malapert Massif
- Leibnitz Beta Plateau
- Nobile Rim 1
- Nobile Rim 2
- Amundsen Rim
“Selecting these regions means we are one giant leap closer to returning humans to the Moon for the first time since Apollo,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for the Artemis Campaign Development Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “When we do, it will be unlike any mission that’s come before as astronauts venture into dark areas previously unexplored by humans and lay the groundwork for future long-term stays.”
The specific locations to for landing will depend on the time of the launch, so having all of these options allows NASA’s teams to open launch windows during more of the year. Everything from the slope of the terrain to lighting conditions and communication with Earth were considered while narrowing down to these possible locations.
“Developing a blueprint for exploring the solar system means learning how to use resources that are available to us while also preserving their scientific integrity”, said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA. “Lunar water ice is valuable from a scientific perspective and also as a resource, because from it we can extract oxygen and hydrogen for life support systems and fuel.”
While we have a few years until the Astronauts will walk down the crew access arm and into the Orion capsule, destined for another celestial body, now we have a good idea where that 13th set of footprints will be made.