Eric Warner Staff Writer
For centuries, man has shown its capacity to go beyond the norms and make breakthroughs in analyzing and exploring the great unknown. From the mathematical concept shattering models of Nicolaus Copernicus, to determination defining achievements of Neil Armstrong, people have gone above and beyond to help humanity learn more about our solar system. These kinds of people are still appearing today, making history and inspiring others to follow their path. Throughout this month, major developments have been made in NASA’s Artemis program.
The Artemis program was designed as a culmination of many other NASA projects that were cancelled over the course of the 21st century, such as the 2005 Constellation program. Similar to Constellation’s goal, Artemis’s ultimate goal is to get the first woman and the next man on the moon where they, and robotic explorers, will map out the entire surface of the satellite. These pioneers will also search the moon for sites of water and other resources necessary for long-term residency on an alien body, as well as learn ways in which people can live and operate on the moon. This is all in service to hopefully discover more clues about how our moon was formed in our solar system’s infancy and how it’s origins relate to Earth’s own origins, as well as to operate as a sort of test run for the program’s endgame of getting people to Mars by 2028 at the earliest.
This past month has seen many developments in making these missions become a reality. On Oct. 15, Amy Ross, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine revealed the official protypes of NASA’s new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) and the Orion Crew Survival System suit to the world. The xEMU suit is an upgraded unit from the suits worn by astronauts during the original Apollo moon landing missions and the current spacewalks occurring around the International Space Station, which the first woman and man of the Artemis program will wear when they set foot on the satellite in 2024. The Orion suit will also be worn by these astronauts during planetary launch and their return into Earth’s atmosphere, as well as during any dangerous instances near the moon. This suit is also an improvement on prior suits by custom fitting to each individual astronaut and making said individuals more comfortable and safer with top of the line safety and mobility technology.
On Oct. 16, NASA and their commercial parent Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will take part in the first two Artemis missions, to begin construction for third core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) and to order targeted long-lead materials and cost-efficient bulk purchases to support future builds of core stages.
According to nasa.gov, “Core stages are generally the center or core of the rocket that host two giant liquid fuel tanks which contain […] cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and all the systems that will feed the stage’s four RS-25 engines. It also houses the flight computers and much of the avionics needed to control the rocket’s flight.” This SLS rocket will be the main vehicle for the first three Artemis missions as it sends the Orion spacecraft to land on the moon’s surface along with supplies for the astronauts use along the way.
While this next milestone isn’t particularly part of the Artemis program, it should be referenced for its important connection to the program and its achievement for humanity. On Oct. 18, history was made when NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conducted the first all-woman spacewalk outside the ISS to repair a broken battery charger. However, the spacewalk was originally supposed to take place last March, but it was delayed until October due to NASA only having one spacesuit for the two women aboard the ISS at the time. The woman had to take part in co-ed spacewalks until two suits for the women were available. Meir was asked what she thought of their achievement during a live interview aboard the ISS following their spacewalk. She responded, according to sciencealert.com, that the spacewalk, “[…]shows all the work that went in for the decades prior — all of the women who worked to get us to where we are today. The nice thing for us is we don’t even really think about it on a daily basis. It’s just normal. We’re part of the team. . . It’s really nice to see how far we have come.”
Finally, on Oct. 25, NASA unveiled the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). This rover will join the astronauts in the Artemis missions to the south pole of the moon and will be the first construct to sample water ice from the moon. It will travel on the moon for roughly 100 days, gathering data that will help form the first water resource maps of the moon to assist in making the goal of living on an alien surface, a reality. The rover is expected to land on the lunar surface by December of 2022.