According to Greek legends, Zeus was a presumed benevolent god whom humans adored and worshipped. The benevolent façade was propelled by his greatest ability; the ability to charm. The constant and profound worship by humans made him extremely potent so much so that none of his siblings could defeat him. Zeus was not at all satisfied with his already substantial power and so he descended on earth and fathered demigods. If things were to go according to his ploy, he would be able to siphon power from his own offspring once they came to their abilities. Turns out that the demigods were the only celestial creatures that could obliterate him from existence. Zeus’ hunger for power created a loophole for his own defeat.
Before the rise of demigods and the war waged on Zeus by his children, Leto, Zeus’ wife birthed twins that history will forever elevate. Apollo and Artemis were twins to reckon with, one being the god of prophecy, music and medicine while the other happened to be the goddess of wilderness, hunt and fertility. There is one particular myth that stands out. In it, once Artemis is born, she helps her mother secure an appropriate location for the birth of her brother, Apollo. That is why Artemis is known as the ‘protector of pregnant women’. Her prowess is globally recognized and the deity is still acknowledged today in various parts of the world. For instance, the Greeks in Asia Minor which is today known as Turkey, have a great temple that was built in Artemis’ honor. This temple is among the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.’
Recently, NASA’s mission to land on the moon was branded ‘Artemis’ as the Greek goddess is also known as the moon goddess. NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstone, has promised that NASA will ensure the delivery of the first woman on the moon since all previous missions saw only male astronauts landing on the celestial feature. The name ‘Artemis’, therefore, is really fitting.
Five decades ago, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Thereafter, successive missions were planned, stemmed from the first successful landing, by different countries. In 1972, Apollo 17 marked the last human mission on the moon. In December 2017, President Trump signed a Space Policy Directive that acted as an executive order which outlined NASA’s mission priorities. This directive had a unilateral mission in mind; return humans to the moon for long-term exploration and utilization. NASA immediately set out to work, colliding thoughts and drafting feasible orchestrations that would ultimately lead to the landing of multiple humans on the moon who would be able to make an abode out of the moon surface. This particular mission did not have the pressure of a deadline until March this year.
The nudge upwards in the timeline was declared by Trump’s administration. Vice President Mike Pence announced this new deadline In March. He specifically pointed towards the lunar South Pole. This region is said to contain some very old scientifically intriguing moon rocks and Pence suggested that it would be an ideal landing surface. Many have been wondering, why the sudden rush? President Trump seems to be aiming at making a mark in space advancements by setting the stones in motion on the Artemis plan. This being his second term definitely suggests that this ambitious mission is meant to put him on history’s map. As if America does not already have a lot to remember him by already!
Now that the timeline has been set, we cannot help but wonder, how much will all of this cost? Is the timeline even feasible and what are the benefits of this mission to all mankind?
Viability of this mission
With NASA only having four years to land boots on the moon’s surface, many scientists have stepped forth to analyze if this mission is actually possible within the constrained timeline. The truth is, there are many loopholes to this plan making it seem highly impractical. For starters, the vessels required; rockets and spacecrafts are all either over budget, unfinished or non-existent at the moment.
Bridenstine said in an interview on CNN that the mission would cost roughly $20 billion to $30 billion over the next four years. NASA will also need Congress to approve some miscellaneous cash amounting to $4 to $6 billion as a part of their budget per year. Bridenstine also made it clear, in another interview, that he will not redirect any funds from current NASA projects in the name of making the human lunar mission successful. The down payment for the Artemis mission is currently standing at $1.6 billion. Yes, this figure is just but a miniature token. The big question is, where is all this money coming from?
In a committee hearing of space and aeronautics, Kendra Horn, the Oklahoma Democrat who chairs all House’s subcommittees said that, “At present we have a White House directive to land humans on the moon in the next five years, but there is no plan and there are no budget details on how to do so and no integrated human space exploration roadmaps laying out how we can achieve the horizontal goal, Mars. In essence, we are flying blind.” This statement was a cause for stir amidst the NASA team as the viability of the timeline continued to seem even less probable.
Either way, deadlines can prove useful especially with a political shove.
History reminds us that the George W. Bush administration pushed for a mission on the moon and it came to pass during the Bush reign. Then the Obama administration came in and the directive shifted towards building capabilities for a journey to Mars. If we have learnt anything from the 1960s history, is that political momentum is vital for space exploration. I suppose, in a way, the Trump administration setting this absurd timeline during Trump’s reign is well, not that bad of an idea.
Still, there is no clear pave way for this to be achieved. The Orion, a multipurpose vehicle designed to accommodate four astronauts, was launched in 2011 yet it has never flown with an actual crew on board. In 2014, it did a successful flight test without a crew. It is said that the Orion may fly this year robotically. NASA not having a lunar lander or an approved design for one to get astronauts from the Gateway to the moon is quite worrisome for the team.
The Gateway is a space station that will be designed to orbit the moon. It will serve as a launching ground for missions to the lunar surface. The space station is said to be reusable and light such that it can pass over any location on the moon.
NASA have had to approach 11 companies to design prototype moon landers. Still, even with the pool of aid from commercial space tech entities, this is no nursery rhyme task. Designing a lunar lander, that is safe for human utilization, for the first time in half a century poses as a humongous problem. We have all seen Elon Musk struggle to develop a viable capsule, the Dragon, to take humans to the ISS since 2010. The Dragon has been subjected to a number of flight tests. In two recent tests, one of the Dragon’s parachutes failed, while in another resulted in a fiery explosion. Keep in mind that the Dragon was first scheduled to fly in 2017.
Nothing about this timeline seems practical so far. All we can do is pray for a space exploration breakthrough and well, a miracle.
The importance of the Artemis mission
The moon, according to varied scientists, can help us understand the development of the entire solar system. The surface of the moon is said to be really old, 3.5 billion years old. Its many craters and scars can tell us the story of the environment of our solar system from the beginning of time onwards. You see when the moon gets a crater, it remains there unchanged throughout time. This is the opposite of craters on earth. Life and tectonic plates slowly erase natural history every day. The moon rocks brought back from Apollo missions helped scientists fathom the surface of the moon. This is how scientists can forge technology that is able to infiltrate the moon.
Also, a successful mission to the moon will act as a stepping stone to a venture on Mars. If at all humans will succeed in becoming interplanetary beings, we need to be able to survive in space. The moon is an excellent experiment with it being only a three days’ worth of journey.
All in all, we are yet to see any authentic plans to this mission being achieved by 2024.
Here is a bizarre fact, did you know that Artemis’ arrows were known for bringing women in labor sudden death during ancient times? Am I the only one who finds this extremely disturbing?