robotic probe Danuri It is currently heading toward the sun to take advantage of the star’s massive gravitational pull and propel itself to its final destination: the moon. This is South Korea’s first mission there. The voyage marks the beginning of a new golden age for lunar exploration. Six nations will send spacecraft to that celestial body, which may have formed billions of years ago when a planet the size of Mars collided with Earth and rip off a part of it. Just like the space race 50 years ago, many of these nations—particularly the United States, Europe, and their Chinese and Russian competitors—are striving to prove their technological might and explore the Moon’s vast mineral reserves and turn them into an intermediate station for access. Ultimate target: Mars.
“A new era of space exploration is coming and Korea wants to be a part of it,” Sungsoo Kim – director of Polcam’s Korea Aerospace Research Institute (one of the four science instruments aboard the Danuri) explains in an email. The main goal of the Asian country is to develop technology to explore and communicate with the moon and other celestial bodies in the solar system. But the spacecraft will also conduct scientific research on the front lines. For example, Polcam will be the first camera to study the texture of lunar soil using polarized light.
“The purpose of this instrument is to determine the size of the lunar regolith particles, which will roughly tell us how long they have been exposed to space conditions,” Kim says. Two other instruments will analyze the strength of the lunar magnetic field and the abundance of some strategic elements, such as uranium, helium and water.
The fourth instrument aboard the Danuri – the ShadowCam developed by NASA – will study “The most expensive real estate in the solar system“, in the words of the US agency. This refers to the large inner craters of the south pole of the moon, where sunlight does not reach. These eternally dark cavities are believed to contain Tons of ice waterIt is a major resource for providing water for future astronauts to drink as well as for making hydrogen-based rocket fuel.
Danuri was launched on August 4, but it will take until December to reach the moon and begin to orbit around it at an altitude of only 100 kilometers. Meanwhile, other missions from the United States, Europe, India, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and China are also expected to attempt to reach the moon.
Artemis I . mission
NASA’s Artemis I mission – undoubtedly the most ambitious of all exploration – is scheduled to launch on August 29. This will be their first trip. Orion A capsule designed to carry astronauts to the Moon and Mars, and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the largest and most powerful rocket ever built.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has built the Orion service module, an essential component of the rocket. “This part is like the spacecraft’s legs, providing the thrust and power it needs, including solar panels and tanks of oxygen, water and nitrogen, while its brain — the electronics and control software — is installed in the capsule itself,” Philippe Delo, a 61-year-old Belgian engineer who He heads Europe’s role in the expedition, told EL PAÍS.
The thrusters in the service module are responsible for carrying the capsule from Earth’s orbit to the Moon, where it will fly just 100 km above the surface. There will be no humans on board at this time. The only members of Artemis’ first crew will be three mannequins: one in a full astronaut’s suit plus two torsos – called Helga and Zohar – to study the effectiveness of a special jacket against space radiation.
Orion will orbit the Moon and a half, following an elliptical path. If all goes well, at its farthest point from the moon, the capsule will become the farthest human-carrying spacecraft ever to reach space, even farther than the Apollo spacecraft that took man to the moon. More than half a century ago.
The cameras on the capsule are expected to send stunning images from the surface of the moon and the spacecraft itself to Earth; They will be of the highest quality Pictures of the earth as seen from the moon Even today. In 1968, Apollo astronauts took similar stunning photos: This was the first time humans had sent a postcard from outer space.
Orion It will take 19 days to complete its path around the moon. After that, the European Service Unit will fire its thrusters to return it to Earth in another 19 days. If all goes according to plan, the capsule will plunge into the Pacific Ocean on October 10, after a machine gun sequence with 11 parachutes to slow the spacecraft from 40,000 kilometers per hour to just 30. One of the key parts of the mission is testing the spacecraft’s heat shield, which will reach about 3,000 degrees when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, Debbie Kurth, NASA’s Orion deputy administrator, said at a press conference.
Deloo thinks Artemis is an infinitely more ambitious program than Apollo. explains that “[t]His time intended to go to the Moon and create permanent bases, “the first orbital bases and then the ones on the surface.” For Apollo, science was a secondary goal. Now, we will deploy all our capabilities to explore the south pole of the Moon, which is of immense geological importance and has great potential for commercial mineral extraction. All this will teach us if we can live there independently and use the Moon as a springboard to get to Mars.
If Artemis I succeeds, in 2024 NASA will launch the first manned mission to orbit the moon without landing on it. The following year, NASA expects a woman to set foot on the moon for the first time in history. Her name has not yet been announced, but she will be drawn from the current corps of astronauts, a group of 42 Americans in their late twenties to mid sixties. Almost half of them are women. NASA astronaut Reed Wiseman emphasized inclusivity at a press conference: “As long as you’re healthy, we’ll load you on a rocket and launch you off the planet,” he said.
Much has changed from previous gender equality programmes, including restrictions on exposure to cancer-causing space radiation. The guidelines have been completely equalized and no longer differ by gender.
Each astronaut corps candidate will be assigned to any of Artemis Or the International Space Station It undergoes various exercises. Moon-preparing candidates will ride a replica of Orion and spend hours working in the depths of a dark pool while donning their lunar exploration suits, among many other tests.
Other countries are planning more modest missions to the moon. Among them, India stands out as a thriving space power. In 2009, the Chandrayaan-1 probe discovered the presence of water on the moon, one of the latest and most significant lunar discoveries. in 2019, The country failed in its attempt to land on the moon with its Vikram unit. India plans to make a new attempt in the first four months of 2023.
in 2019, The Chinese landed on the dark side of the moon for the first time in history. China is planning several missions to explore the moon and collect samples from asteroids. It is also building its own space station. The United States and Europe cite China as their main competitor.
Japan is another player in the renaissance of lunar exploration. This year, Japan plans to launch the Slim mission, which will attempt to land on the most geographically accurate moon ever. The oil-rich United Arab Emirates also hopes to land on the moon for the first time with its small rover Rashid. The Japanese company ispace is also participating in this launch. Last year, the United Arab Emirates successfully launched the Al-Amal (Hope) project, The first Arab spacecraft to orbit another planet, Mars.
Despite being mired in the war in Ukraine, Moscow also wants to take part in the new race to the moon. The Soviet Union was the direct competitor of the United States. For decades, it was the only other country to successfully land robotic probes on the Moon. Things have changed a lot since then. Sanctions and a breakdown in cooperation between Moscow and the West over space initiatives make matters even more difficult. However, the country is still maintaining its Luna-25 mission, a lander that was supposed to take off in July but likely won’t be launched until 2023, according to TASS.
On the ground, war broke out in Ukraine An unprecedented space crisis. Russia’s confusing announcement that it will abandon the International Space Station (ISS; a space base constantly inhabited by international astronauts 400 km from Earth) in 2024 directly affects US and European plans to keep the International Space Station fully operational until 2030. However, she points out. All indications are that Russia is extending its presence on the International Space Station beyond the date it announced it will leave, because the country cannot launch its own space station for the next few years.
Deloo, a veteran ESA engineer who has overseen European engagement for years, believes the two Western partners would have little difficulty continuing to operate without the Russian unit. “The only unique function of this unit is to take the station out of orbit when it reaches the end of its usefulness. Currently, Western members can continue to keep the station in orbit, so there is plenty of time to adapt and operate normally without Russia,” he says.
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