You Should Be More Excited About the Artemis Moon Missions
Last June, I took my son Wynn to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. He has an interest in science and, like any eight-year-old, wants to go space, but I do wonder if the trip was more for me than it was for him. It is difficult not to be discouraged by the current state of the world, and fretful for its future. There is much value in the perspective of looking toward the heavens, and for recognizing the limitless possibilities of what human beings are capable of, if we can just stop screaming at each other all the time. I came away from the place feeling renewed, invigorated: Like there was a chance all this might turn out all right.
But mostly: I got really excited that we were going to the moon. Like most Americans, I had not heard about the Artemis project, at least until I visited the Space Center. The Artemis project, which began under the Trump administration and was continued by the Biden administration (one of the few projects to survive the transition), is explicit about its aims: It wants to return human beings to the moon. It wants them to be Americans. It wants to put the first woman on the moon, and the first person of color on the moon. It wants us to go back.
The timeline on this is quicker than you might realize. The first flight was scheduled to launch Monday morning but was scratched because of an issue with one of the engines. (This seems an excellent reason to push back a launch, even an unmanned one.) One suspects the postponement of the launch will limit some enthusiasm, and maybe you won’t be watching the next one like you were going to do this morning, but they are eventually going to launch regardless. When Artemis 1 does launch, it will merely orbit the moon — it’s basically to prove that we can still do such a thing. Artemis 2 is scheduled to launch in May 2024 and will feature a crew doing a “lunar flyby” before returning to earth. Artemis 3 is the big one, scheduled for 2025, with two astronauts spending a week…