Why go back to the moon?

On September 12, 1962, then-US President John F. Kennedy informed the public of his plan to send a man to the Moon by the end of the decade.

It was the height of the Cold War and America needed a major victory to prove its supremacy in space after the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite and put the first human into orbit.

“We chose to go to the moon, because that challenge is the challenge we are willing to accept, the challenge we are not willing to put off, and it is the challenge we intend to win,” Kennedy told 40,000 people at Rice University.

Sixty years later, the United States is about to launch the first mission of the return to the Moon program, Artemis. But why do we repeat what has already been done?

Criticism has mounted in recent years, for example from Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, and Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin, who have long advocated for America to go directly to Mars.

Read also | NASA Web Captures the Tarantula Nebula

But NASA says a reconquest of the Moon is a must before a trip to the Red Planet. Here’s why.

NASA wants to develop a sustainable human presence on the Moon, with missions lasting several weeks — compared to a few days for Apollo.

The goal: to better understand how to prepare for a multi-year round trip to Mars.

In deep space, radiation is more intense and poses a real threat to health.

Low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station (ISS) operates, is partially shielded from radiation by the Earth’s magnetic field, which is not the case on the Moon.

Since the first Artemis mission, several experiments have been planned to study the effect of this radiation on living organisms, and to evaluate the effectiveness of an anti-radiation jacket.

Moreover, while the ISS can often be resupplied, trips to the Moon – a thousand times more – are much more complicated.

To avoid having to take everything with them and save costs, NASA wants to know how to use the resources on the surface.

In particular, water in the form of ice, which has been confirmed to be on the south pole of the Moon, can be converted into rocket fuel by cracking it into separate hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

Read also | No gamma rays from the dwarf galaxy solve the astronomical mystery

NASA also wants to experiment with technologies that will continue to develop on the surface of Mars on the Moon. First, new spacesuits for spacewalks.

Axiom Space has been commissioned to design the first mission that will land on the moon in 2025 at the earliest.

Other needs: Vehicles – pressurized and unpressurized – so astronauts can move around, as well as habitats.

Finally, for sustainable access to an energy source, NASA is developing portable nuclear fission systems.

Any problems that arise will be much easier to solve on the Moon, after only a few days, than on Mars, which can only be reached in at least several months.

The main pillar of the Artemis program is the construction of a space station in lunar orbit, called Gateway, which will serve as a relay before the flight to Mars.

Sean Fuller, who is in charge of the Gateway program, said all the necessary equipment could be sent there on “multiple launches,” before the crew finally joined them for the long trek. France Press agency.

“It’s like you stop at your gas station to make sure you get all of your stuff, and then you’re on your way.”

Aside from Mars, another reason the Americans put forward to settle on the Moon is to do so before the Chinese, who plan to send astronauts by 2030.

Read also | India plans to design and build a reusable missile for the global market: ISRO

China is the main rival to the United States today as the once proud Russian space program has faded.

“We don’t want China to suddenly get there and say, ‘This is our exclusive land,'” NASA chief Bill Nelson said in a recent interview.

While the Apollo missions returned to Earth nearly 400 kilograms of lunar rock, the new samples will make it possible to deepen our knowledge of this celestial body and its composition.

“The samples we collected during the Apollo missions changed the way we look at our solar system,” said astronaut Jessica Meir. France Press agency. “I think we can expect that from the Artemis program as well.”

It also predicts more scientific and technological breakthroughs, just as it happened in the era of Apollo.