WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s easily one of the most visible of the celestial bodies: the moon. Next year, the journey to get humans back there will get underway again.
“Ultimately, it fulfills our need to explore,” said Dr. Kjell Lindgren, a NASA astronaut, who is one of the 18 recently chosen for NASA’s Artemis program.
Artemis aims to get humans, including the first woman, to the lunar surface by 2024. Humans have not been back to the moon since the Apollo 17 mission back in 1972.
“All of us in the astronaut office are, in one way or another, influenced by those iconic images of our Apollo astronauts exploring the moon,” Dr. Lindgren said.
Returning to the moon is seen as a necessary stepping-stone to getting humans to Mars in the 2030s. The Artemis team will be working on lunar-related projects, both in orbit and on the surface of the moon, that can eventually be applied to a future Martian mission.
“The moon offers a wealth of scientific discovery still,” Dr. Lindgren said. “It also offers a wealth of operational discovery helping us to refine the procedures the equipment and the skills that are needed to be able to land, to explore successfully on a rocky surface and then to come back to the earth.”
The missions also have the potential to create technological advancements for everyone on Earth.
“The whole world benefits from those things and the benefits from Apollo are innumerable. You know, from the computers, the miniaturization of computers and on, you can count all those,” he said. “That was really a turning point in history for technology.”
NASA’s Artemis program hopes to eventually create a permanent human presence on the moon’s surface, similar to the current full-time human presence on the International Space Station, and Dr. Lindgren could be among them.
“It's such a privilege to be a part of this,” he said.
The new lunar program was named “Artemis,” after the Greek goddess, who was the twin sister of Apollo.