NASA will unveil potential future landing sites for a human return to the surface of the moon, and you can watch the briefing on Space.com today (Aug. 19), or directly on the space agency’s website.
The agency will reveal the candidate landing sites in a briefing today (Aug. 19) at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab). NASA and its partners plan to land near the lunar south pole, where water ice is believed to exist in permanently shadowed craters. The region also presents interesting opportunities for scientific exploration including astronomical observations from the surface of the moon.
“Each of the selected regions, from which specific landing sites could be selected, is of scientific interest and was evaluated based on terrain, communications, and lighting conditions, as well as ability to meet science objectives,” NASA said in the statement. “NASA will engage with the broader science community in the coming months to discuss the merits of each region.”
If successful, the landing will mark the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 that humans will have set foot on Earth’s celestial companion. The ambitious Artemis program aims not only to put the first woman and the first person of color on the moon’s surface, but also to establish a permanent human presence on the moon and in its orbit.
The first step of the Artemis program is set to take place later this month with the uncrewed test flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, which will lift an empty Orion crew capsule for a round-trip to the moon and back to test a variety of critical technologies. If successful, the mission, called Artemis 1, will pave the way for the first human lunar round trip in 2024 and the subsequent landing in 2025.
NASA already selected SpaceX to build the landing system to take astronauts from the lunar orbit to the moon’s surface as part of the Artemis 3 mission.
Later in the decade, NASA and its partners (the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), plan to establish a permanent space station orbiting the moon, called Gateway, and eventually a base on the moon’s surface.
In the future, missions to Mars may be taking off from the moon instead of from Earth to reduce the cost and technical complexity of these launches.