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NASA reveals where it wants the next Americans to land on the moon


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NASA has not yet launched the rocket that will carry astronauts to the moon, and has not yet determined the crew that will explore the lunar surface as part of its Artemis program. But it has already determined where the astronauts will land on the Moon.

The space agency announced Friday that it has selected 13 potential regions on the moon’s south pole, where ice is found in permanently shaded craters, and far from the region discovered by Neil Armstrong and other Apollo astronauts.

The first human mission to land on the moon in nearly 50 years is now Scheduled to take place as early as 2025It will be the first manned moon landing since the last Apollo flights in 1972. NASA has pledged to return humans to the moon’s surface – a bold plan born during the Trump administration and embraced by the Biden White House.

while he suffered Some setbacks and delays, the program is the first human deep space exploration program since Apollo to survive subsequent administrations. But unlike Apollo, Artemis is designed to create a permanent presence on and around the moon. NASA has moved forward with a sense of urgency, with China also aiming to send astronauts to the moon.

In a briefing Friday, NASA officials said they chose the landing sites using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter — an automated spacecraft that has been mapping the lunar surface since 2009 — as well as other studies of the moon.

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“Choosing these regions means we’re taking a giant leap closer to returning humans to the Moon for the first time since Apollo,” Mark Kerasich, NASA associate deputy administrator for the Artemis campaign development division, said in a statement. “When we do that, it will be unlike any mission to come before as astronauts venture into dark regions previously undiscovered by humans and lay the foundation for future long-term stays.”

NASA has already announced that it will go Return to the lunar south pole. But NASA said the specific locations, all within a range of six degrees latitude from the South Pole, were chosen because they provide safe landing sites close enough to permanently shade areas to allow the crew to walk on the moon there as part of a six-and-a-half day on the lunar surface.

This would allow astronauts to “collect samples and conduct scientific analysis in an uncompromised area, providing important information about the depth, distribution and composition of the water ice that has been confirmed at the lunar south pole,” NASA said.

Water is important to sustain human life, but also because its components – hydrogen and oxygen – can be used in rocket fuel.

The Apollo missions went to the tropics of the moon, where there are long periods of daylight – for two weeks at a time. Antarctica, by contrast, may have only a few days of light, making missions more difficult and limiting the windows in which NASA can shoot.

“It’s very far from the Apollo sites,” said Sarah Noble, Artemis’ lunar sciences leader. “Now we’re going to a completely different place.”

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The announcement comes as NASA prepares for its first Artemis mission, now Scheduled to be held on August 29. That flight, known as Artemis I, would mark the first launch of NASA’s massive Space Launch System rocket that would send the Orion crew capsule, without any astronauts on board, into lunar orbit for a 42-day mission.

Earlier this week, the space agency transferred the rocket and spacecraft to Pillow 39B at the Kennedy Space Center In Florida, officials say everything is still on track for a two-hour launch window that opens at 8:33 a.m., and NASA has booked backup launch dates for September 2 and 5 if there are delays.

One of the main goals of the flight is to test Orion’s heat shield, said Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager. The heat shield is intended to protect Orion and its future crew from the extreme temperatures they will encounter when it enters Earth’s atmosphere at 24,500 miles per hour, or Mach 32.

The mission will follow a flight with four astronauts orbiting the moon, but not landing, as soon as 2024. A human landing, the first since the last Apollo missions in 1972, is now scheduled for 2025.

That task depends on a number of factors, including the development of Starship SpaceX rocket and the spacecraft, which will rendezvous with Orion in lunar orbit and then transport astronauts to and from the lunar surface.

“It feels like we’re on a roller coaster about to cross the top of the biggest hill,” Jacob Blecher, NASA’s chief exploration scientist, told reporters Friday. “Fasten your seat belts, everyone, we’re going on a trip to the moon.”

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