This week, the space agency unveiled the latest plans for its Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024. It would mark the first time since 1972 that humans have touched down on the lunar surface.
For the first time ever, NASA plans to send a woman to the Moon.
NASA said its Artemis plan shows it is “focused on achieving the goal of an initial human landing by 2024 with acceptable technical risks, while simultaneously working toward sustainable lunar exploration in the mid- to late 2020s.”
The first phase of NASA’s plan includes a monthlong test flight around the Moon, sans astronauts, called Artemis 1, slated for autumn 2021. Artemis 2 would then complete the same test flight in 2023 with a crew, and Artemis 3 would begin its crewed lunar mission the next year.
The Artemis 3 astronauts will spend about a week on the Moon’s surface collecting samples, conducting experiments, and searching for resources, according to NASA’s plan. Later in the decade, the plan calls for the agency to establish a base for humans, called the Artemis Base Camp, that would support longer expeditions on the Moon and on Mars.
“When Artemis 3 lands the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024, America will demonstrate a new level of global space leadership,” NASA said in its new plan. “With lunar exploration capability re-established, NASA and the world will be ready to build a sustained presence on the lunar surface in preparation for human exploration of Mars.”
NASA’s timeline, however, is contingent on Congress releasing $3.2 billion to build a landing system. Overall, the program calls for $28 billion in funding through 2025.
Nasa to fire $23m toilet into space
Nasa has flushed $23m down the toilet.
A new, titanium ablution solution will lift off on Thursday for a test run at the International Space Station before potentially being used in future missions to the Moon.
“Cleaning up a mess is a big deal. We don’t want any misses or escapes,” Johnson Space Centre’s Melissa McKinley told the Associated Press before launch.
The prototype, weighing in at 100 pounds and 28 inches tall, is about half the size of the Russian toilets currently in orbit, and is designed to fit into Nasa Orion capsules returning astronauts to the moon in the near future, and possibly Mars beyond.
While older toilets were more catered toward men, the upgrade sees the seat tilted and sitting a little taller in a design that better accommodates women, in what may add further fuel to speculation Nasa secretly considered all-female missions to Mars.
Nasa astronaut Mike Hopkins, commander of the second SpaceX crew launching on 31 October from Kennedy Space Center, told the AP while the old design wasn’t particularly hard to use, “sometimes the simple things become very difficult”.
Astronaut Shannon Walker agreed. “Trust me, I’ve got going to the bathroom in space down, because that is a vital, vital thing to know how to do,” she said.
“We actually use like a vacuum system, so imagine if you have a vacuum cleaner and you’re sucking things down, you turn on a big fan, that’s pulling everything down into the toilet,” she says.
“We have a long funnel that we use to collect all of the urine, and then there’s another seat that you can sit on, again with that fan pulling things through to collect everything and keep it contained.
Currently, 90 per cent of water-based waste like urine and sweat is recycled, and Ms Meir says that recycling rates will need to reach 98 per cent before the first human missions to Mars.