Un seventies wind is blowing over Cape Canaveral on this Saturday, September 3, when an American rocket was to take off again for the Moon. And yet, we are not 1969 but in 2022 and, in the ball of the Greek deities called to watch over space missions, Artemis succeeds Apollo.
The world of the XXe century gave way to that of the 21ste. New challenges, new stakes but always, despite everything, this almost dreamlike wonder of seeing an invitation to tomorrow fly away. Because it is indeed a renewed lunar ambition and resolutely turned towards its time that testifies this first stage of the Artemis program, carried by NASA since 2017, and which aims to see the next astronauts tread the Selene soil by 2025. .
This time, it is not, as in the time of Apollo, a single series of round trips but the permanent presence of a crew on a base in sustainable expansion on the lunar surface. Returning there, to stay there: the Moon of 2022 is no longer a destination, but a place to explore, with potential to be discovered there.
This desire for rediscovery – because until recently, space agendas looked more towards Mars – is not a whim of the agencies. A few days of travel and a few seconds of signal, the Moon is the first training ground for space exploration in the immediate vicinity of the Earth.
A permanent, human and/or robotic presence will set it up as a test bed for the space exploration of the near future. We will thus learn both to master a hostile space environment on a daily basis, the lunar soil – with temperature variations ranging from –30°C to 150°C –, and to place in cislunar orbit the satellites necessary for geolocation and communications on the Moon and to the Earth.
The Moon is therefore a place for acquiring skills to go tomorrow to Mars and beyond. The perennial presence, the first principle of the new lunar ambitions, will make it possible to place this learning in the long term. This pattern of sustainable expansion thus presents a relatively new character, like a new stage in human space exploration.
A timid European commitment
Of course, this ambitious program is backed by geopolitical ambitions, whether American, Chinese, Russian or even Indian. And, with this September 3 launch, the NASA program has just taken a serious lead. Moreover, it brings with it the signatory countries of the Artemis chordsbacked by the NASA program and from which France left in June 2022.
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