NASA identifies candidate regions on the Moon for Artemis III landing with next Americans

As NASA prepares to return astronauts to the Moon under Artemis, the agency has identified 13 candidate landing regions near the lunar South Pole. Each region contains several potential landing sites for Artemis III which will be the first of the Artemis missions to bring the crew to the lunar surface, including the first woman to set foot on the Moon.

“The selection of these regions means that we are one giant step closer to returning humans to the Moon for the first time since Apollo,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for the Artemis campaign development division at the NASA headquarters in Washington. “When we do, it will be unlike any previous mission as astronauts venture into dark realms previously unexplored by humans and lay the groundwork for future long-term sojourns.”

Nasa identified the following candidate regions for an Artemis III lunar landing:

Faustini Rim A, Peak Near Shackleton, Connecting Ridge, Connecting Ridge Extension, de Gerlache Rim 1, de Gerlache Rim 2, de Gerlache-Kocher Massif, Haworth, Malapert Massif, Leibnitz Beta Plateau, Nobile Rim 1, Nobile Rim 2, Amundsen Rim

Each of these regions is located within six degrees of latitude of the lunar south pole and collectively contains various geological features. Together, the regions provide landing options for all potential Artemis III launch opportunities. Specific landing sites are tightly tied to the timing of the launch window, so multiple regions ensure launch flexibility throughout the year.

To select the regions, an agency-wide team of scientists and engineers assessed the area near the lunar south pole using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and decades of publications and lunar scientific discoveries. In addition to considering launch window availability, the team evaluated regions based on their ability to accommodate a safe landing, using criteria such as terrain slope, ease of communication with Earth and lighting conditions. To determine accessibility, the team also considered the combined capabilities of the Space Launch System rocket, the Orion spacecraft, and the Starship human landing system provided by SpaceX.

All of the regions considered are scientifically important due to their proximity to the lunar south pole, which is an area that contains permanently shaded regions rich in resources and unexplored terrain by man.

“Several of the sites offered in the regions are located among some of the oldest parts of the Moon and, together with the permanently shaded regions, provide the opportunity to learn about the history of the Moon through lunar materials. previously unstudied,” said Sarah Noble. , Artemis Lunar Science Lead for NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

The analysis team weighed other landing criteria with scientific goals specific to Artemis III, including the goal of landing close enough to a permanently shaded region to allow the crew to perform a moonwalk while limiting disruption during landing. This will allow the crew to collect samples and conduct scientific analysis in an uncompromising area, providing important information about the depth, distribution and composition of water ice that has been confirmed at the South Pole of the Earth. Moon.

The team identified regions that can fulfill the purpose of the moonwalk by ensuring proximity to permanently shaded regions and also considering other lighting conditions. All 13 regions contain sites that provide continuous access to sunlight for a period of 6.5 days – the planned duration of the Artemis III surface mission. Access to sunlight is essential for a long-term stay on the Moon as it provides a source of energy and minimizes temperature variations.

“Developing a plan to explore the solar system means learning to use the resources that are available to us while maintaining their scientific integrity,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA. “Lunar water ice is valuable scientifically and also as a resource because we can extract oxygen and hydrogen from it for life support systems and fuel.”

NASA will discuss the 13 regions with the wider scientific and technical communities through conferences and workshops to solicit feedback on the merits of each region. These comments will inform site selections in the future, and NASA may identify additional regions for consideration. The agency will also continue to work with SpaceX to confirm Starship’s landing capabilities and evaluate options accordingly.

NASA will select sites in the regions for Artemis III after identifying the mission’s target launch dates, which dictate transfer trajectories and surface environment conditions.

Thanks to Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, paving the way for a long-term, sustainable lunar presence and serving as a springboard for future astronaut missions to Mars.

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