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NASA plans to fix Mars spacecraft leak then launch in 2018

Moon to Mars Overview

NASA’s human lunar exploration plans under the Artemis program call for sending the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and establishing sustainable exploration by the end of the decade. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for humanity’s next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

Working with U.S. companies and international partners, NASA will push the boundaries of human exploration forward to the Moon and on to Mars. NASA is working to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024 as part of the Artemis program and establish a permanent human presence there within the next decade to uncover new scientific discoveries and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.

It all starts with U.S companies delivering scientific instruments and technology demonstrations to the lunar surface, followed by a spaceship, called the Gateway, in orbit around the Moon that will support human and scientific missions, and human landers that will take astronauts to the surface of the Moon. The agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft will be the backbone to build the Gateway and transport astronauts to and from Earth.

Related: Learn more about recent progress for Moon to Mars

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Groundbreaking Science

The Moon is a treasure chest of science that holds many fascinating mysteries to explore – many that will advance our understanding of our home planet and solar system, as well as the cosmos beyond. NASA wants to use the Moon’s unique perspective as a science platform to look back at the Earth, observe the Sun, and view the vast universe. The discovery of water on the Moon and possible deposits of rare Earth metals also hold promise for both scientific and human exploration.

NASA is working to build and identify scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for Moon deliveries by U.S. companies begininng in 2021. These deliveries will help us learn more about the Moon, and provide opportunities to test new lander technologies ahead of sending astronauts to the Moon.

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Getting There: SLS and Orion

Artist concept of the NASA’s Space Launch System at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39B.
Credits: NASA/Marshal Space Flight Center

The first mission will test the new spacecraft systems flying together for the first time, without crew, and the second flight will take astronauts on a flight test around the Moon. The third flight of SLS and Orion will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024. Together, Orion, SLS and the Gateway represent the core of NASA’s sustainable infrastructure for human exploration.

Groundbreaking Science

The Moon is a treasure chest of science that holds many fascinating mysteries to explore – many that will advance our understanding of our home planet and solar system, as well as the cosmos beyond. NASA wants to use the Moon’s unique perspective as a science platform to look back at the Earth, observe the Sun, and view the vast universe. The discovery of water on the Moon and possible deposits of rare Earth metals also hold promise for both scientific and human exploration.

NASA is working to build and identify scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for Moon deliveries by U.S. companies begininng in 2021. These deliveries will help us learn more about the Moon, and provide opportunities to test new lander technologies ahead of sending astronauts to the Moon.

Getting There: SLS and Orion

The Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion are critical to NASA’s exploration plans at the Moon and beyond. NASA designed the SLS as the world’s most powerful rocket for safely sending humans on missions to deep space, and Orion is specifically designed to keep humans alive hundreds of thousands of miles from home, where getting back to Earth takes days rather than hours.

The first mission will test the new spacecraft systems flying together for the first time, without crew, and the second flight will take astronauts on a flight test around the Moon. The third flight of SLS and Orion will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024. Together, Orion, SLS and the Gateway represent the core of NASA’s sustainable infrastructure for human exploration.

Related: Learn more about SLS and Orion

In Lunar Orbit

The Gateway will enable months-long crew expeditions with multiple trips down to the lunar surface, enabling exploration of new locations across the Moon. The Gateway also is designed to operate autonomously as a deep space science outpost even without crew and will be built to internationally agreed-upon standards.

The initial configuration will include a Power and Propulsion Element and a cabin for the crew called the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), and be ready to receive logistics supply deliveries.

Over time, the Gateway will become a way station for the development of refueling depots, servicing platforms, and a facility for processing samples from the Moon and other bodies in support of science and commerce.

Humans on the Moon

NASA is working with commercial companies to design and develop human landers that will deliver the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024, with the long-term goals of global lunar access and resusable landing system. Private sector innovation is key to NASA’s goal of sustainable lunar exploration and the agency’s many public-private partnerships are already advancing capabilities for human spaceflight in deep space while stimulating commercial activities.

NASA will begin to develop increasingly larger, more capable, and reusable landers for humans that can carry more cargo and land more precisely. Future landers also will carry large roving instrument kits to locate life-sustaining and mission-enabling resources on the Moon, and collecting and returning samples to the Gateway.

NASA also has outlined a concept for how robotic and human explorers will put in place infrastructure for a long-term sustainable presence on the Moon. These include a lunar terrain vehicle, or LTV, to transport crew round their landing zone, a habitable mobility platform to allow crews to traverse the Moon for up to 45 days, and a surface habitat that would house as many as four crew members on shorter surface stays.

Related: Learn more about the Gateway

Related: Learn more about the Power and Propulsion Element

Related: Learn more about the HALO

Related: Learn more about the Logistics Module

Related: Learn more about Human Landing System efforts

Looking to Mars

NASA also continues to work with companies to address the challenges of living in space, such as using existing resources, options for disposing of trash, and more. Missions to the Moon are about 1,000 times farther from Earth than missions to the International Space Station, requiring systems that can reliably operate far from home, support the needs of human life, and still be light enough to launch. These technologies will become increasingly more important for the 34 million mile trip to Mars.

Exploration of the Moon and Mars is intertwined. The Moon provides an opportunity to test new tools, instruments and equipment that could be used on Mars, including human habitats, life support systems, and technologies and practices that could help us build self-sustaining outposts away from Earth. Living on the Gateway for months at a time also will allow researchers to understand how the human body responds in a true deep space environment before committing to the years-long journey to Mars.

Related: Learn more about preparing to go

All these efforts will build on NASA’s 60 years of exploration experience, including the success of 20 years of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station. With the work underway, the agency will move deeper into the solar system with its partners to achieve the ambitious exploration goals set forth by Space Policy Directive-1 and to develop a permanent presence at the Moon that generates new markets and opportunities, both scientific and economic, and prepares humanity for future exploration to Mars.

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