the next day Monday (29) Launch Launching From the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon, the first step toward returning humans to location, on Artemis 3, between 2025 and 2026. This feat will be historic, since the last time We were there 50 years ago, in 1972, with Apollo 17 on the mission that marked the end of the famous space program. But if technology has advanced so much in the past few decades, why are we so far from the moon?
The answer to this question involves many factors, from technological, scientific and budgetary issues. Even with no more humans being transferred to the natural satellite, many equipment had already been sent out to explore the place without the need for someone to accompany it. In fact, we’ve already sent robots to Mars and analyzed other planets in our system with probes. So, even though we’re not on the moon anymore, technology for space missions has advanced a lot.
The costs of going to the moon
Today’s computers are infinitely more powerful than those used in Apollo 11, which took humans to the moon for the first time. The spacecraft’s hardware has just over 4MB of RAM for reading data and processing capacity that we see today in kids’ laptops. However, despite the huge development in the computational field, the truth is that going to the moon is still very expensive.
This is one of the main reasons we don’t go to the moon: the cost. First, it is necessary to analyze the context of the Apollo project, at the height of the space race, when the United States needed to prove its superiority over the Soviet Union, which took the lead with Sputnik (the first artificial satellite in orbit) and Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space).
Thus, for the United States, getting to the moon was not just a scientific matter, but primarily a way to beat its main competitor at the time. In other words: the budget for the Apollo program was exorbitant, as getting to the moon became a matter of honor for the United States, giving the mission a military character.
with the end a program Apollo, the United States has already achieved its goal and for the Soviets it is no longer worth investing in this endeavor after the defeat at the hands of the Americans. After this period, other important space investments were made, such as probes and telescopes, and the human journey to the moon was put aside, as it was less expensive and less risky to send unmanned missions to the place rather than endangering astronauts.
To give you an idea, the probe was sent recently capstone to the moon. The Cubsat mini satellite was launched last month and is expected to reach the natural satellite in November. That is, four months of travel. The timing is due to the fact that the mission was launched on a rocket much less powerful than the Saturn V rocket used on Apollo, which reached the moon in just three days (or the SLS used on Artemis). This power cut also represents a significant cost reduction.
Why are we returning humans to the moon now?
But after all this time, why would we go back to the moon now? The Artemis mission comes after the decline of NASA’s manned missions. Under the Obama administration, the Constellation program, which began under Bush, has ended, just as the space shuttles have. The delay was driven by the high cost of the project.
As we know, this does not mean the end of space exploration for the United States. In fact, after the space shuttle program was retired, the US Congress approved NASA to develop a new rocket to transport the Orion capsule. Thus the SLS was born and the Artemis program began to take shape.
This does not change the fact that the program is very expensive and its costs have increased since its initial forecast. By 2025, it is estimated that the Artemis program will cost $93 billion in US coffers, which has led to controversy and delays in plans. But for now, Congress continues to maintain funding for the project.
Even with all that, there are reasons for the moon. First, the Apollo missions have not explored our natural moon in depth and there are still many areas that have not been sufficiently analyzed, such as the poles, that should have been Artemis’ initial focus. Another reason is that the process could serve as a springboard for a much bolder plan: taking astronauts to Mars.
NASA’s idea is bold and includes building a space station that orbits the moon, Gateway, which will allow for an easier return to the moon. In the Apollo program, with each new mission, everything had to be done from scratch, which significantly increases costs. NASA also intends to use this base to support an eventual mission to send humans to Mars in the future.
Regarding the future of Artemis after 3, NASA is already planning 4 missions and returns to the Moon, including building the Gateway in partnership with the European Agency and the Japanese Agency. But all this, of course, still depends on the approval of the US Congress.
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