Two anchors of astronautics

Why NASA is sending people to the moon in 2024

In February 2021, three spacecraft will approach Mars, in October or November, scientists plan to send a probe to Trojan asteroids, at the same time a new orbiting telescope is going to be launched into space, which could revolutionize the exploration of the Universe. In 2021, we will also see the launch of new rockets from private aerospace companies.

Here is a list of space missions planned for the next 12 months.

Martian Trio

Last summer, the UAE, China and the United States sent their spacecraft to Mars. The Arab probe Emirati Hope (“Hope”) will be the first to arrive on the Red Planet on February 9; he will explore Mars from orbit. The main scientific task of the Arab space station is to compile a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere. Emirati Hope will study dust storms in the lower atmosphere and how the planet's weather changes during a Martian day and year.

Photo: space. om/Chinese rover as seen by the artist

The very next day, February 10, the Chinese mission "Tianwen-1" (translated as "questions to heaven" or "questions to heaven") will arrive to Mars. For three months, the Tianwen-1 system, consisting of an orbital probe and a lander with a rover on board, will circle the planet, and in May will send a lander with a rover to the surface. China will try to land the device on the surface of another planet for the first time, the most difficult thing in this mission is to make a soft landing. If successful, the Chinese rover will search for water, draw up geological maps, and collect and analyze surface composition samples.

The last to approach Mars is the American Mars rover Perseverance. The surface landing is scheduled for 18 February. If the initial phase of the mission is successful, the rover will begin to look for signs of microbial life in the dried-up crater lake of Jezero. The device will investigate the surrounding area for biosignatures, after which it will begin collecting rock samples, which will then be left in a cache-container, these samples will be returned to Earth by other missions.

Attached to the bottom of the Perseverance is an Ingenuity helicopter, which NASA intends to test at low altitude. Scientists say that if successful, American engineers will make a kind of revolution in space exploration: a new type of robots will appear that can study planets and their satellites from a bird's eye view.

Second uncrewed test flight of the Starliner capsule and first manned flight

In December 2019, Boeing conducted unmanned tests of its Starliner spacecraft. However, during the Orbital Test Flight-1 (OFT-1) test flight, during which the spacecraft was supposed to approach the ISS and dock with the station, there were difficulties with the software of the device, and Starliner was unable to reach the target.

Sensation followed by exposure

American Patrick Murray "blew up" the world media with an incredible sensation - he published an interview with the late director Stanley Kubrick, recorded 15 years ago.

“I have committed a massive fraud against the American public. Featuring the United States Government and NASA. The moon landing was faked, all landings were fake, and I was the person who filmed it, ”Stanley Kubrick claims in the video. In response to the interviewer's clarifying question, the director repeats once again: yes, the American landing on the moon is a fake, which he personally fabricated.

According to Kubrick, this hoax was carried out on the instructions of US President Richard Nixon. For participation in the project, the director received a large amount of money.

Patrick Murray explained why the interview did not appear until 15 years after Stanley Kubrick's death. According to him, this was the requirement of a non-disclosure agreement, which he signed during the recording of the interview.

A loud sensation, however, was quickly exposed - the interview itself with Kubrick, whose role was actually played by the actor, turned out to be a hoax.

Stanley Kubrick's involvement in what has come to be known as the "moon conspiracy" has not been raised for the first time.

In 2002, the documentary "The Dark Side of the Moon" was released, part of which was an interview with Stanley Kubrick's widow Christian. In it, she claimed that her husband, at the initiative of US President Richard Nixon, inspired by Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, took part in the filming of the landing of American astronauts on the moon, which was held in a specially built pavilion on Earth.

In reality, The Dark Side of the Moon was a well-choreographed hoax, as its creators frankly admitted in the credits.

"We've never been to the moon"

Despite the exposure of such pseudo-sensations, the theory of the "lunar conspiracy" is still alive and has thousands of supporters in different countries of the world.

On July 21, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and uttered the historic phrase: "This is one small step for man, but a giant leap for all mankind."

In July 2019, mankind celebrates a significant date - 50 years from the moment an earthling set foot on the surface of the moon.

The success of the American Apollo mission seemed like a landmark breakthrough. The first step of Neil Armstrong on the Moon in 1969 was perceived by many as the beginning of human development of other celestial bodies. At the end of the 1960s, it seemed that people in 2019 would already go on interstellar expeditions, and on Mars, as it was sung in a Soviet song, apple trees would bloom.

But it turned out differently. Since 1972, space travel has been limited to orbital flights, and new expeditions to the moon and the conquest of Mars have been postponed.

"We would be on Mars if not for the political risk"

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight, NASA CEO Jim Bridenstine took part in the CBS program "Face the Nation", answering questions about past missions, and most importantly, about the future.

The new US lunar project was named "Artemis" in honor of the moon goddess. The name was not chosen by chance - Artemis was the sister of Apollo, after whom NASA's first manned lunar project was named.

According to Jim Bridenstein, NASA is working to have a woman astronaut take the first steps on the Moon by 2024.

However, journalists began to ask the head of the American space agency uncomfortable questions. For example, how realistic is the five-year deadline set for the return of the Americans to the moon - after all, today the United States has neither a rocket nor a ship for such a flight?

“What I'm talking about,” replied Jim Bridenstine, “comes with two risks. There is technical risk and there is political risk. We would be on the moon right now if not for the political risk. Frankly, we would be on Mars if it weren't for the political risk. "

When asked by a journalist about what he means by political risk, Bridenstein explained: “I'm talking about funding. In the 1990s and early 2000s, we set out to return to the moon and fly to Mars. But the programs were too long and required a lot of money. " According to Bridenstein, in order to avoid political risk, it is necessary to carry out the bulk of the work on the program before the departure of the administration, which is guaranteed to support the Artemis project and will not curtail funding.

Very expensive

The last manned lunar mission to date ended on December 19, 1972. The question of why earthlings no longer fly beyond the orbit of their own planet has given rise to many conspiracy theories.

The real answer, however, is trivial. As Jim Bridenstine confirmed, it all came down to the problem of funding.

In 2024, NASA will send humans to the moon for the first time in 48 years. This will be done within the framework of the Artemis program, which is divided into three parts.

The first part will be held in 2021 - the agency will test the launch system and an unmanned version of the Orion spacecraft.

As part of the second part of the program, in 2023, a test flight of people to the moon will be carried out, without landing on its surface.

And only in 2024 will a man and a woman set foot on an earth satellite. For a long time, the project was in its infancy, and only recently the agency decided on what scientific goals the astronauts would fulfill. They will spend a maximum of 6 days on the Moon, within which every second will be carefully planned.

The benefits of the moon for science

The scientific goals of the Artemis mission were reported on the official NASA website. Since the moon is a very important element of the solar system, scientists want to study it thoroughly. It is believed that the data obtained will help to better understand the main processes that take place inside our star system and even beyond.

In addition, the results of research should show what dangers can await future visitors to the moon and where they can get useful resources. Indeed, in the next few decades, humanity wants to build a base on the moon. It is believed that it will become a waypoint during flights to Mars and other planets.

It is not known exactly what the base on the Moon will look like. Probably something like this

The moon has tremendous scientific potential, and astronauts will help us to uncover it. The Artemis mission has not yet begun, but our agency's scientific and research teams are already working together and leveraging each other's strengths, ”announced Thomas Zurbuchen, Assistant Administrator at NASA's Science Missions Office.

Scientific work on the Moon

The main task of the astronauts will be to collect lunar soil for subsequent delivery to Earth. Researchers will extract soil not only from the surface, but also from the depths of the earth's satellite. Studying the lunar soil can help scientists unravel the mysteries of the origin of the solar system and uncover other mysteries of space.

Most of the US mined lunar soil in a series of Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972. During the Artemis mission, it is planned to extract 85 kilograms of material. This is 21 kilograms more than was collected in the XX century.

How astronauts will extract the ground is not yet clear

Over the years since Konstantin Tsiolkovsky called our planet the cradle of humanity, in which one cannot live forever, people have come a long way to the stars. Now the economic interest has been added to the purely scientific interest - the possibility of extracting minerals in space no longer looks like a fantasy.

Although mining on the Moon and asteroids is still talked about in the future tense, the outlines of the space exploration market are more and more clearly visible - and the rapid strengthening of the role of private companies is more and more clearly visible. The commercial use of outer space is over half a century old. It all started with the Telstar 1 satellite, launched in 1962 to transmit television signals over the Atlantic Ocean.

The lunar race continues, despite the fact that Google has decided to end sponsoring the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) competition, which ran from 2007 to March 31, 2018. The competition was organized by the X Prize Foundation with financial support from Google. It was attended by private companies involved in the commercial exploration of space and the moon. The first prize in the amount of $ 20 million was to be received by a company that manages to land a self-propelled robotic apparatus on the Moon. Moreover, the lunar rover is obliged to overcome 500 m of the lunar surface and send high quality images to Earth.

On March 31st there was a message about the closure of GLXP. However, just five days later, the X Prize announced its renewal - with new conditions, which will be announced in a few months. So far nothing is known about the prizes for the winners. Obviously, the organizers are now actively looking for a new sponsor.

“We are very grateful to Google for the sponsorship and the $ 30 million in prizes for the Google Lunar XPRIZE,” said X Prize Founder and President Peter Diamandis in a statement. “The competition is now over, but at least five companies are hoping to land a robotic apparatus on the Moon in the next two years ”.

These are exactly what Peter Diamandis had in mind when he spoke of companies that, after sending a self-propelled vehicle to the moon, hope to eventually start extracting minerals there.

Photo: NurPhoto via Getty Images

“We applaud the X Prize's decision to continue Lunar XPRIZE with or without a title sponsor,” Robert Richards, founder and director of Moon Express, told reporters. borders and create a multi-billion dollar sector of the economy ”.

Small, but with big ambitions

Moon Express is not accidentally named the first in the list of companies going to fly to the moon. It employs only 30 people, but, according to many experts, it was she who turned out to be the closest to the goal and this year can claim victory in the competition.

And Moon Express became famous in August 2016, when it received permission from the US government to launch a self-propelled vehicle to the moon. Last year, reporters were shown drawings of the MX-1E lunar rover, which was successfully tested at Cape Canaveral last summer.

The company plans to plant a second apparatus with an experimental telescope the size of a shoebox in 2019 near the South Pole of the Moon. The International Lunar Observatory Association believes that due to its excellent visibility, the South Pole is an ideal location for a space observatory.

The third, largest, lunar rover will go to the moon in 2020 - already for samples of lunar soil. The last time, by the way, they were brought to Earth in 1976 by the Soviet station "Luna-24".

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