(PresidentialHill.com)- This week, NASA came one step closer to its ambitious Artemis program to send astronauts to the moon for the first time in fifty years.
On Tuesday, the space agency launched a CubeSat miniaturized satellite called CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) from a launch site in New Zealand.
According to Bradley Smith, NASA’s director of launch services for the Space Operations Mission Directorate, the CAPSTONE launch was “absolutely fantastic.”
Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, is the ideal name for NASA’s next lunar mission.
The current science objectives for the Artemis mission are to understand the origin and character of lunar polar ice, study the history of impacts the Earth and moon have experienced, and discover what the moon can tell us about our distant past.
The Artemis program has five planned flights, the first one scheduled for this year. The Artemis I mission is unmanned, but subsequent missions will have crews, with the first lunar landing scheduled for Artemis III in 2025.
Unlike Apollo’s lunar module, the human landing system for Artemis functions like an elevator, carrying the crew down to the surface and then returning them to orbit for the trip back home.
The CubeSat launched on Tuesday will test the stability of the orbit around the moon that NASA plans to use for the Artemis program’s Gateway space station that will act as a hub for both manned and unmanned missions to the moon’s surface.
The Artemis program will develop a base of sorts on the lunar surface that will house the equipment used for lunar excursions, including moonwalks, sample collection, and scientific experiments.
Each lunar landing will include increasing the infrastructure of the lunar habitat to ultimately build a NASA Artemis Basecamp on the moon. This basecamp will be a sustainable lunar infrastructure that will include lunar rovers to expand the area of exploration. It will also provide autonomous and remote operations when the crew isn’t on the lunar surface.