After more than fifty years, the time has finally come again: NASA is returning to the moon. NASA President Bill Nelson made the announcement at a press conference this week. Russia and China are preparing for new space missions. “We’re back in the middle of the race to the moon,” says Rob van den Berg, a space expert at the Sonneborg Observatory.
Nelson came to the press conference with a ‘roaring story’, says van den Berg. Artemis II, NASA’s so-called ten-day mission, is scheduled for November 2024. This mission is in preparation for a mission to Mars. ‘Anyone who loves space travel is excited to see this.’ According to van den Berg, construction is on schedule, and the astronauts got a look at the interior of the Orion capsule together. “They’re absolutely ready and they’re going to train to make all of this possible.”
New space race
What makes space travel even more interesting is that many countries are working on new space missions. While Russia was the only serious competitor fifty years ago, now China also wants to put people on the moon.
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Russia will launch a manned mission to the moon this Friday. “They’re going to put a lander at the south pole of the moon, roughly the same place NASA wants to land,” van den Berg explains. China is also planning to settle people there. We are in the middle of the new moon race.’
Focused on the future
The Artemis II mission will be more extensive than the Apollo missions of half a century ago. ‘It was about ten days of work. First they will extensively test the capsule to make sure it is working properly, and then they will fly into a large orbit around the moon. They make a semi-circle around the moon, practice landing and then go back. These exercises are said not to be about Artemis II, but about the future.
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Fifty years later, knowledge of these space missions is somewhat lost. ‘Fortunately, a lot of knowledge has been gained in the meantime, but it’s just as exciting as it was in the Apollo program,’ says van den Berg.
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