Artemis Mission to the Moon


NASA’s Artemis will return human exploration to the Moon. NASA has built new technologies, such as the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Also the Orion spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems to take astronauts to the Moon.  Eventually then onto Mars. 

The Artemis missions will put the first woman and first person of colour on the lunar surface.

 In collaboration with commercial and international partners, NASA will establish sustainable structures on/around the Moon.  This will support more discovery and exploration than ever before.  They will use what they learn on and around the Moon.  This will allow them to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.


Going back to the Moon enables more scientific discovery.  It has economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers: the Artemis Generation.   This MaintainsAmerican leadership in exploration.   Together with partners the intention is to build a global alliance.  Planning to explore deep space for the benefit of all.

NASA is not simply aiming to repeat the feats of the Apollo missions.   They want Artemis to go to the Moon ‘and stay there’.

This means investigating the possibility of establishing bases both in lunar orbit and on the Moon’s surface.   Even so, the primary goal for now still involves returning humans to the Moon by the middle of the decade.


  • Equality: a chief aim for NASA is to land the first woman and first person of colour on the lunar surface.
  • Technology: from rockets to spacesuits, the technologies currently being developed are designed to pave the way for future deep-space missions.
  • Partnerships: the Artemis programme is one of NASA’s first large-scale collaborations with commercial companies, such as SpaceX and Boeing.
  • Long-term presence: where the Apollo 17 crew spent three days on the lunar surface, Artemis aims to establish a base to extend the trips to weeks and possibly months.
  • Knowledge: as more is known about the Moon compared with 50 years ago because technologies have greatly advanced.
  • NASA claims that this next series of missions will be able to retrieve samples more strategically than during the Apollo era.
  • Resources: the discovery of water on the Moon and potential deposits of rare minerals hold promise for both scientific and economic exploration and exploitation.


New technologies have been developed by NASA that will take them to the lunar surface. All launch facilities at Kennedy Space Centre have been upgraded to support Artemis missions.

The most powerful rocket in the world is the Space Launch System (SLS).  It has been built to carry humans and cargo to the Moon and beyond.  Orion, launching atop the SLS, is the capsule that will carry crew into lunar orbit. The crew will then transfer to the Gateway. In order to establish  an outpost orbiting the Moon. Then, the land crews on the lunar surface with the support of the Human Landing System.


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Three Artemis missions are currently in progress:

Artemis 1:     

An un-crewed test flight completed 11 December which circled and flew past the Moon.

Artemis 2:      

Enables a crewed flight beyond the Moon, which will take humans the furthest they’ve ever been in space.

Artemis 3:      

Will land the first female astronaut and first astronaut of colour on the Moon Surface where they will stay for a week completing experiments



Four main components make up the Artemis Moon missions. Including

Orion spacecraft Orion’s crew, command and service modules | Source: NASA (June 2022)

Equipped with life support systems and shuttle interfaces, Orion is the command module needed to transport the astronauts through space. 

Artemis Orion


The Lunar Gateway is a small space station orbiting the Moon.  It is designed to be a flexible platform for missions to the Moon and beyond.  The Orion module will dock with Gateway.  Consequently from here the astronauts will transfer into the lunar landing module.  Unlike the International Space Station (ISS), the Lunar Gateway won’t be permanently occupied.  Above all it will serve as a platform where astronauts can live and undertake research for short periods. It will also be able to continue scientific research even between human lunar missions.

International partners such as the European Space Agency are working with NASA on the design for the Lunar Gateway.



The lunar landing vehicles will take cargo and humans from the Lunar Gateway to the Moon’s surface.  NASA is working alongside commercial companies to develop both a human landing system (known as HLS).  They plan to develop a series of other vehicles for robotics and cargo.

Apollo’s Lunar Module was designed to be used for one return journey to the Moon’s surface.  Whereas the landing systems for the Artemis missions are set to be used for multiple missions.



Tying together all these elements is the launcher that will carry them beyond Earth’s atmosphere and into space. This super heavy-lift rocket is taller than the Statue of Liberty at 322ft.   Estimated to cost $800 million per launch. The SLS is the most powerful rocket in the world, 15% more powerful than the original Saturn V launcher that first took astronauts to the Moon.  The launcher has been in development at NASA for most of the last decade, enduring multiple delays and rising costs. 



Artemis 1 update:


Following four cancelled launch attempts due to engine issues and tropical storms, Artemis 1 successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Centre at 1:47am EST (6:47am GMT) on Wednesday 16 November 2022.

  • On day 5 of its mission (20 November), the Orion spacecraft entered the Moon’s sphere of influence, meaning the Moon became the main gravitational force acting on the craft, rather than the Earth.
  • Day 6 the Orion capsule reached and performed a flyby of the Moon, coming to within around 130 kilometres of the surface. The spacecraft exited the lunar sphere of influence on day 8 as it travelled away from the Moon.
  • The spacecraft performed a burn to enter ‘Distant Retrograde Lunar Orbit’ on Day 10. It is called ‘distant’ as the craft is flying at a very high altitude from the lunar surface, and ‘retrograde’ because it’s flying around the Moon in the opposite direction the Moon travels around Earth.
  • On 26 November (day 11), Orion broke the record for the farthest distance travelled by a spacecraft designed to carry humans into space and back. The record was previously held by Apollo 13, which travelled 400,171km away.
  • Orion reached its max distance of 432,210km from Earth on Day 13, as part of its lunar orbit.   It performed another burn on day 16 (December 1, 2022) to exit distant retrograde lunar orbit, sending Orion back towards the Moon and marking the start of its journey home.
  •  Day 20 (December 5), the craft performed another lunar flyby, reaching around 128km from the Moon.   Using the Moon’s gravity to slingshot itself back toward Earth, and it successfully landed in the Pacific Ocean on December 11. 

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