Although there were many obstacles in the way of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Artemis I mission launching — Hurricane Ian, liquid hydrogen leaks and more — the Orion rocket launched on Nov. 16 and returned back to Earth on Dec. 11.
The Artemis I mission — launched through the Orion spacecraft — had no crew, but was an important step towards having humans on the next Artemis II mission, which is scheduled for May 2024.
Prof. Emeritus Steven Squryes, astronomy, worked on the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which collected useful data and information about Mars and its closeness to Earth until 2018. The success of the Mars Rover missions helped motivate the return of humans to the Moon, and eventually Mars, since there are even more capabilities that humans have for conducting experiments.
“The unfortunate truth is that most things our rovers can do in a perfect [Martian day], a human explorer on the scene could do in less than a minute,” Squyres said in his book, “Roving Mars”.
The mission took approximately three weeks to complete, and traveled further than any rocket built for human travel had in the past. The Orion rocket traveled more than 1.4 million miles, carrying various space biology experiments and even a Snoopy plush toy. The experiments studied the effects of space travel and radiation on yeast, fungi and algae.
So far, the data recovered from the rocket has shown that the design for the Space Launch System, which was built specifically for the Artemis missions, is ready for a human crew. The Artemis III mission, scheduled for 2025, will land on the moon and involve various experiments on its surface.
There are 18 astronauts eligible for the Artemis missions that were selected in 2020, including nine women.
“Through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a stepping stone for astronauts on the way to Mars,” said a NASA Press Release on Nov. 16.
Many students are excited about this upcoming moment in space history. However, some think that this mission was overdue.
“As a gender minority in STEM, I think it should have happened sooner,” Grace Guo ’25 said. “But it is still good progress towards improving representation in space and scientific advancements.”
Other students, like Julian Turner ’25, who conducts astronomy research on campus, are excited about the implications of this launch on future astronomical feats.
“The recent Artemis launch is a yet another great feat of astronautical engineering, and the continued success of the program is exciting because it gives us hope that we can eventually achieve the same with Mars,” Turner said.
The next step towards landing on the moon is fast approaching, and hundreds of researchers, organizations and companies will be working together towards this goal.
“For years, thousands of individuals have poured themselves into this mission, which is inspiring the world to work together to reach untouched cosmic shores,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a NASA Press Release on the day the rocket returned. “Today is a huge win for NASA, the United States, our international partners and all of humanity.”