NASA The Artemis program aims to bring humans back to the Moon, with the aim of staying there for good in the interest of pursuing additional scientific and exploration missions, including on Mars. But how will the agency actually allow people to stay on the Moon for longer-term science missions? NASA has provided more details on its plans with a sustainability concept it has published outlining some of the basic components of the infrastructure it plans to set up on the lunar surface.
NASA’s plans focus on three key elements that would allow a sustained presence and research on the surface of the Moon, including:
A lunar land vehicle (LTV) that would be used by the crew to travel on the Moon. Basically, it’s a rover but it’s driven rather than robotic. There would be no closed cockpit, so astronauts would wear extra-vehicular protection (EVA) spacesuits while using it for short trips.
A habitable mobility platform, which would be a larger, fully confined and pressurized rover, allowing longer journeys further from the spacecraft’s landing site up to 45 days at a time.
A surface foundation with a moon foundation that could serve as a permanent and permanent residence for the crew during shorter stays on the surface. this could accommodate up to four astronauts at a time, although the habitable mobility platform is the main active residence for surface missions, while the Gateway space station in orbit around the Moon would be the main base for operations for crews not engaged in active surface exploration and science.
Like the International Space Station before it, the bridge is designed to be scalable over time, with new models attached to add more crew accommodation, as well as additional work and experimentation spaces. This will be important as it will become the starting point not only for missions to the surface of the Moon, but also as a crossing point for the exploration of Mars and beyond.
NASA also claims that robotic robots will be a key part of its lunar infrastructure, which will be used for purposes such as collecting data and materials for research, as well as to help stimulate the development of key resource production for a lasting presence, such as water, fuel and oxygen.
The agency also includes some details of its plans for Mars, including how it will send a crew of four to the bridge for a “multi-month stay to simulate the outward journey to Mars”. If it goes as planned, it would be the longest continuous human stay in the vicinity of deep space, and a key step in understanding how a human journey to Mars would work.
NASA’s full “Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development” is available here for more details on the broad lines listed above. Artemis and its calendar will inevitably feel the impact of the global coronavirus crisis, but the goals of the program are unlikely to change too much, even if the goals to achieve them are.