View of Moon limb with Earth rising on the horizon. Footprints as an evidence of people being there or great forgery. Collage. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Artemis Passes Moon, NASA Predicts Lunar-Dwelling Humans Before Decade Ends

NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft aced a close moon flyby on Monday. The space agency is planning a sustained human presence on the lunar surface before the decade is out as a gateway to landing humans on Mars.

NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft aces its close moon flyby

At 7:44 a.m. ET., On Monday, November 21, NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft aced its close moon flyby, zooming within only 80 miles above the lunar surface, as well as completing a crucial engine burn needed to continue its historic mission, reported.

The engine burn “sent Orion close enough to the lunar surface to leverage the moon’s gravitational force, and swing the spacecraft once around the moon toward entry into a distant retrograde orbit,” said NASA’s Sandra Jones during a live stream on Monday.

The Orion capsule was out of contact for 34 minutes during the maneuver, as it took place on the far side of the moon, where radio signals cannot reach. After the signal returned, the spacecraft sent back an image of the Earth, while NASA says the mission has “exceeded expectations,” the BBC reported.

The uncrewed Orion spacecraft of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission launched last Wednesday morning, November 16.

NASA says humans could be living on the moon before the decade ends

One of the goals of the Artemis program seeks to establish a sustained human presence on the moon, as well as putting an orbiting lunar outpost called “the gateway” in place, CNN reported.

“We want to stay on the lunar surface and learn on the lunar surface so that we can get the most science and know how we’re going to go to Mars,” said Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate.

The Artemis II, scheduled for 2024, will follow a similar path taken by Artemis I, which involves circling the moon at a wider distance than any of the Apollo missions.

In late 2025, the Artemis III mission plans to land the first woman and the next man at the moon’s south pole, with one of those being a person of color. The landing will occur at the moon’s South Pole, where NASA believes permanently shadowed regions may harbor ice and other resources that could sustain astronauts during long moonwalks.

“On Apollo, we did incredible science at the equator,” said Free. “This time, we’re going to the South Pole.”

Space station and ‘power tower’ rover to land on the moon by 2025

Another of NASA’s plans is to establish a “charger” rover that could supply power to robots deployed to explore shaded craters on the south pole of the moon as part of expanding lunar infrastructure to be established by 2025, reported.

Scientists believe these permanently shadowed craters, with their unspoiled interiors, could contain evidence of the solar system’s past. NASA also aims to establish a space station orbiting the moon by the end of this decade.