In three years, NASA will be sending astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. Known as Artemis III, this mission is currently scheduled to launch in October of 2024 as part of NASA's goal to send the "first woman and the next man" to the lunar surface.
Beyond that, NASA's Artemis Program also calls for the creation of all necessary infrastructure to realize a "sustainable program of lunar exploration." This will consist of building the Lunar Gateway, an orbital habitat that will allow for regular trips to and from the surface, and the Artemis Basecamp — which will allow for long-duration stays on the surface.
To realize these objectives, NASA is busy developing and testing all the components that will take astronauts beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for the first time in half a century — like the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft.
Beyond NASA, space agencies like the European Space Agency (ESA), Roscosmos, the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA), and the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) all have plans to send astronauts to the Moon. Some even plan on building a permanent lunar settlement in the Moon's southern polar region (like the ESA's International Moon Village).
Aside from that, NASA and other space agencies are also deep into researching how humans can live and work for extended periods off-world. This means coming up with designs for habitats that can provide astronauts with a breathable atmosphere, warmth, and protection from the environmental elements.
Given that missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond will not be able to rely on regular resupply missions, these habitats will also need to be as self-sufficient as possible. This means that water and air will need to be recycled and cleaned on an ongoing basis and that some food will need to be grown in-house.
This could be problematic, since space is a very harsh environment for all living things. And beyond the usual hazards, there's a lot that we don't know about food-production in space. But with a new era of human space exploration on the horizon, we are determined to find out!
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