Internal NASA documents reveal inevitable delays in the Artemis program

Internal NASA planning documents on the Artemis program, accessible via the website Ars-Technicareveal that the space agency has been working on two more schedules for its manned lunar exploration program, indicating inevitable delays.

The first missions of the Artemis program should be carried out in the next five years. The first one, an Artemis I, is expected to take off later this year. The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will launch the Orion spacecraft for an uncrewed journey around the Moon.

On Artemis I, the Orion spacecraft will make an unmanned trip around the Moon and back to Earth (Image: Reproduction/NASA)

then the Artemis II will fly the same route as the previous mission, but this time with four astronauts aboard Orion. It will only be on Artemis III that two humans will once again set foot on the lunar surface and return to Earth. However, NASA did not provide details of the program’s upcoming missions.

Internal documents reveal that in addition to the “base” schedule, NASA has developed two other options, indicating that agency planners do not believe the base plan will execute on the current schedule or budget.

reservation hours

The second calendar, called “cadence”, gives priority to the regular launches of the lunar program. The third, called “content”, provides for the launch only when the most important loads are ready.

In addition to the reference calendar, the agency is considering two others (Image: Reproduction/Ars Technica)

Asked about internal documents, NASA spokeswoman Kathryn Hambleton said the agency was moving forward with its basic plans for the missions beyond Artemis III and regularly evaluates “alternative architectures” for careful planning.

Among future plans, NASA is considering adding an “Artemis III.5” mission until 2027 and avoiding a three-year gap in program launches. The mission would require a fourth launch with the SLS and could cost around $5 billion.

Artemis III.5 would send four astronauts to the lunar space station bridge, two of which descend towards the Moon. For this, NASA would have to delay several projects in the program, such as the development of the station itself, lunar rovers, a surface habitat and the upgrade of the side thrusters of the SLS rocket.

In addition to the tight budget for so many projects, NASA seems to be concerned that after the launches of the lunar space station core elements, the additional modules will not be ready for launch until the end of this decade. The updated version of the SLS would be used to launch these modules with the Orion spacecraft.

Moonbase and Gateway Station

The formulation of the Artemis program, made in 2020, included the extension of human economic activity in space by establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon in cooperation with private companies and other space agencies. In theory, all of this will support science and technology for more distant destinations such as Mars.

Artist’s concept of Artemis astronauts working on the lunar surface (Image: Reproduction/NASA)

NASA has made clear its intention to establish a human presence on the surface and in orbit of the Moon, but this would depend on the development of key technologies, such as a livable mobility platform this would allow 45-day trips across the lunar surface and habitat for up to four astronauts.

The problem is that the agency’s internal deadlines have delayed any creation of a moon base until the 2030s. On the other hand, documents indicate that NASA will devote the next decade or more to building the gateway.

Key elements of the station include its power and propulsion systems and a small habitat module, which must be launched by uh heavy hawkby SpaceX, end of 2024 — according to NASA, these components will have a useful life of 15 years.

Subsequently, the housing module I-HAB and the modules of the European Resupply, Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) system will be sent, both provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), in addition to an inner tube, which would arrive at the portal in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Parking of the Orion spacecraft at Lunar Gateway (Image: Reproduction/NASA)

NASA intends to make Gateway a fulcrum for Artemis missions, since the Orion spacecraft, for example, does not have the propulsion capability to fly to Earth. low lunar orbit then back to Earth. However, this solution would be viable with SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft.

In April 2021, NASA chose the spatialship to take astronauts to the Moon as a lander. In addition to being larger than the bridge, the ship offers many of its power and propulsion capabilities. So it wouldn’t make much sense to invest more time and money in the station.

One thing is certain: the documents point to inevitable delays in the Artemis program. Thus, the program would be at least 15 years away from developing a semi-permanent base on the Moon, and exploration of Mars would not take place there until the 2040s or 2050s.

Source: Ars-Technica

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