NASA has identified thirteen candidate regions for the next moon landing human with the Artemis program, which plans to take a crew to the Earth's satellite to land on the mysterious lunar south pole. Each region contains multiple potential landing sites for Artemis III, which will be the first of the missions to bring crew to the surface of the Moon, including the first woman and the first person of color.
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"This selection means we are one giant step closer to returning humans to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program," said Mark Kirasich, deputy administrator for NASA's Artemis Campaign Development Division. "When we do, it will be unlike any previous mission, as astronauts will venture into dark zones previously unexplored by humans and lay the groundwork for future long-term stays."
Each of these regions, within six degrees of the lunar south pole, offer landing options for all possible Artemis III launches. Specific landing sites are closely tied to the launch window schedule, so having multiple areas ensures flexibility for launch throughout the year.
NASA has identified thirteen candidate regions for the next human landing with the Artemis program, which plans to take a crew to the Earth satellite to land on the mysterious lunar south pole
Regions accessible and close to the lunar south pole
To select these areas, a team of scientists and engineers from the agency has used data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as decades of publications and scientific findings about the natural satellite and its south pole.
In addition to taking into account the availability of launch windows, the team has selected the regions based on their ability to allow a safe landing, using criteria such as slope of terrain, ease of communication with Earth, and lighting conditions.
The team has selected the regions based on their ability to allow a safe landing, using criteria such as the slope of the terrain, ease of communication with the Earth and lighting conditions.
All areas are scientifically significant because of their proximity to the satellite's south pole, which contains permanently shadowed regions that are rich in resources and in unexplored human terrain.
"Several of the proposed sites are located on some of the oldest parts of the Moon and, along with permanently shadowed areas, offer an opportunity to learn about its history through previously unstudied materials," said Sarah Noble, Head of Artemis lunar science report for NASA's Planetary Science Division.
A walk on the moon
Choosing multiple zones will allow the crew to conduct a moonwalk by ensuring their proximity to permanently shadowed regions. During the ride, astronauts will be able to collect samples and conduct scientific analysis without hindrance, gaining important information about the depth, distribution, and composition of the water ice that was confirmed at the South Pole.
Astronauts will be able to collect samples and conduct scientific analysis without hindrance, gaining important information about the depth, distribution, and composition of water ice that was confirmed at the South Pole.
The thirteen regions comprise locations that provide continuous access to sunlight for a period of six and a half days, the expected duration of the Artemis III surface mission. Access to sunlight is essential for a prolonged stay on the Moon, as it provides a source of energy and minimizes temperature variations.
"Developing a model to explore the solar system involves learning how to use the resources that are available to us while preserving its scientific integrity," said Jacob Bleacher, NASA's chief exploration scientist. "The lunar water ice is valuable from a scientific point of view and also as a resource, because from it we can extract oxygen and hydrogen for life support systems and for fuel."
After discussing the regions with the scientific community, NASA will select sites for Artemis III after finalizing mission launch dates, which will determine transfer trajectories and surface environmental conditions.