In 2022, companies and governments aim for the Moon

13th January, 2022.      //   Space Travel  // 

Future lunar objectives, scientific advances, and national prestige are all on the agenda for this year’s Moon missions.

Why it’s important: As the International Space Station mission winds down, the Moon will only become more critical in the years ahead. Space-faring nations’ lunar relationships have ramifications for research, business, and geopolitics on Earth.
Night sky with full moon, clouds and stars

According to Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation, “being able to get to the Moon is no longer only an exclusive thing.” Space access has increased to the point that more countries than ever before are now able to participate in possible Moon expeditions.

What’s going on: At least three countries plan to deploy missions to the Moon this year. NASA’s massive Space Launch System rocket, which is part of the Artemis program and is meant to bring people to the Moon by 2025, is expected to launch an uncrewed mission this year that will fly the Orion capsule around the Moon and back to Earth.

Smaller satellites will be carried on that trip to examine various characteristics of the Moon, such as ice at the South Pole and the impact of solar radiation on the lunar environment. South Korea’s first Moon mission, the robotic Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, is scheduled to launch in August, and Russia’s uncrewed Luna 25 mission to the lunar surface to investigate the Moon’s ice could launch later this year.

The big picture: This year, U.S. companies are also aiming for the Moon with NASA’s help, potentially changing the course of lunar science. This year, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines are expected to launch their lunar landers, carrying payloads for NASA and other private companies on the way.

According to Casey Dreier of the Planetary Society, this type of mission signifies a departure for NASA. “Rather than designing the mission around specific issues, the science is being done to accommodate the platforms’ capabilities.” “In order to enhance the cadence and frequency of science you’re getting back, [they’re] generalizing the platforms, but not necessarily especially built to tackle the most pressing, far-out, or specific concerns you have.”

What to keep an eye on: NASA has been enticing countries to sign on to the Artemis Accords, which control lunar conduct. Nonetheless, the space agency is up against it. Instead of Artemis, Russia and China aim to establish their own lunar research outpost in the future years, potentially attracting additional possible international partners. SpaceX is creating its own lunar lander under a contract with NASA to use its Starship rocket for the first crewed Artemis mission to land on the Moon, and it will need to cross numerous technical barriers before launch.

This year, Starship is planned to launch its maiden orbital mission, which will be a significant event to keep an eye on for anyone following NASA’s lunar goals.

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