To the Moon and Beyond
NASA’s program to return to the moon is called “Artemis”, named for the Greek goddess of the Moon and twin sister of Apollo. Through the Artemis program, the agency intends to send humans to the Moon on a sustainable basis, enabling astronauts to learn to live and work on another world and prepare for missions to Mars. The current plan is to return to the moon by first orbiting it in the first fully integrated human mission (Artemis II), which will be launched after the initial uncrewed test flight (Artemis I) of the Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle. During the subsequent Artemis III mission, astronauts will land at the lunar south pole, which is now known to contain water ice and may provide other resources. In time, water may be extracted from the lunar soil and potentially be used for drinking, cooling equipment, and making vehicle fuel for missions to deep space.
Through Artemis, NASA is planning to leverage space diplomacy built through the International Space Station over the years. To follow up on the international aspect of deep space exploration, the agency has been in an ongoing conversation with space allies. For example, NASA leadership and the leadership of JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) recently signed a Statement on Cooperation in Lunar Exploration laying out the intention of Japan and the United States to work together in lunar exploration initiatives like Artemis I CubeSats, the Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) mission, and collaboration on NASA’s Lunar Gateway. The International Space Station Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB), the main cooperative body in the ISS, recently confirmed Station partner organizations ROSCOSMOS (Russian State Corporation for Space Activities) JAXA, and ESA (European Space Agency) will be joining NASA in deep space exploration efforts. New space agencies that are not part of the International Space Station are also joining NASA in the efforts to go forward to the Moon. In September 2019, NASA launched a new partnership on future space cooperation, which includes the opportunity for Australia to join the U.S. Moon to Mars exploration efforts and the Artemis program specifically. Australia will invest $150 million over five years for Australian businesses and researchers to support NASA’s deep space exploration missions.
The Artemis program will allow NASA and industry to experiment with and develop new technologies further in space. NASA’s expertise and R&D is good for industry, and business in turn brings innovation and developments to NASA. New partnerships can help government and businesses develop a space economy together. An example of how NASA is fostering this idea is by choosing companies to advance Moon and Mars technologies through Announcement of Collaboration Opportunities (ACO) and Tipping Point awards. Through ACO, NASA selected thirteen companies – including CDSE members Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed Martin – to test advanced materials, build rocket engine combustion using 3D printing, test operations for in-space plant-growth, and various other projects. The companies will use NASA’s facilities and centers to mature their technologies. Meanwhile, through the Tipping Point program, NASA selected fourteen companies to ready promising technologies for use by the agency for Artemis. CDSE members Paragon Space Development Corporation and Astrobotic were selected to develop life support systems and small rovers, respectively.
The program will also leverage science projects between NASA and industry to start laying the groundwork for future missions to deep space. For example, the agency has selected commercial partners to build lunar landers through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which is funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Through CLPS, CDSE member Astrobotic will deliver science, exploration, and technology demonstration payloads to the Moon on its Peregrine Lunar Lander. CLPS will also enable NASA to be one customer of many in scientific developments on the Moon, enabling the selected companies to contract with other businesses to deliver payloads. For example, Astrobotic signed an agreement with Japanese company Dymon to bring the first Japanese rover to the Moon.
Artemis is inspiring non-traditional partnerships and innovative economic activities that can help with settling sustainably on the Moon, some of which include terrestrial companies. For example, Astrobotic is partnering with DHL to manage lunar landing logistics, and Japanese company iSpace is partnering with NGK Spark Plug Co. to explore power supply technologies.