NASA Starts Building Next Spacecraft To Take Astronauts To The Moon
NASA has plans to land astronauts on the moon again by 2024, and construction of the spacecraft is already underway.
In 2019, former vice president Mike Pence announced that plans for NASA to place astronauts on the moon for the first time since 1972 had been pushed forward from 2028 to 2024.
There have been rumours that this goal would be relaxed, but the team who are constructing the spacecraft are already putting it together.
NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans has seen the first parts of the spacecraft – called Artemis III – be put together. Technicians from Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin have begun welding three cone-shaped panels to create a crew module.
In a press statement, NASA explained the function of the crew module:
The crew module’s primary structure, the pressure vessel, is comprised of seven machined aluminum alloy pieces that are welded together through a weld process that produces a strong, air-tight habitable space for astronauts during the mission.
The pressure vessel is designed to withstand the harsh and demanding environment of deep space, and is the core structure upon which all the other elements of Orion’s crew module are integrated.
Once this essential part of the spacecraft is constructed, the team will move on to ‘ joining the forward bulkhead to the tunnel to create the top of the spacecraft’. After the primary structure of the Artemis III crew module is finished, it will be sent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for further assembly.
As the name of the spacecraft suggests, Artemis III will be part of three lunar missions. The first is set to launch this year and will be unmanned as it tests the operations of the craft. The second mission, which is scheduled for 2023, will be manned but will not land on the moon.
These missions are part of important plans for NASA, and the agency explained:
As we’ve solidified more of our exploration plans in recent months, we’ve continued to refine our budget and architecture. We’re going back to the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers. As we build up a sustainable presence, we’re also building momentum toward those first human steps on the Red Planet.
When humans return to the moon, many will be excited to see bases be built and the water of the natural satellite studied.
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