Why go back to the moon first and not Mars?

On September 12, 1962 then we President John F. Kennedy informed the public of his plan to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade.

It was the height of the Cold War and America needed a major victory to prove its space superiority after the Soviet Union unleashed its first victory. Satellites And put the first man into orbit.

“We chose to go to the moon,” Kennedy told 40,000 people. People At Rice University “because this challenge is One which we are willing to accept, one we are not willing to put off, and one we intend to win.”

Sixty years later, the . program began United State About to launch the first mission of the Return to the Moon Program, Artemis. But why do we repeat what has already been done?

Criticism has mounted in recent years, for example from Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, and Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin, who have long advocated for America to go directly to Mars.

But NASA argue the re-conquer the moon Is a must before a trip to the red planet. Here’s why.

– Long space missions –

NASA wants to develop a sustainable human presence on the Moon, with missions lasting several weeks — compared to a few days for Apollo.

The goal: to better understand how to prepare for a multi-year round trip to Mars.

In deep space, radiation is more intense and poses a real threat health.

Low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station (ISS) operates, is partially shielded from radiation by the Earth’s magnetic field, which is not the case on the Moon.

Since the first Artemis mission, several experiments have been planned to study the effect of this radiation on living organisms, and to evaluate the effectiveness of an anti-radiation jacket.

Moreover, while the ISS can often be resupplied, trips to the Moon – a thousand times more – are much more complicated.

To avoid having to take everything with them and save costs, NASA wants to know how to use the resources on the surface.

In particular, water in the form of ice, which has been confirmed to be on the south pole of the Moon, can be converted into rocket fuel by cracking it into separate hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

– Testing new equipment –

NASA also wants to experiment with technologies that will continue to develop on the surface of Mars on the Moon. First, new spacesuits for spacewalks.

Axiom Space has been commissioned to design the first mission that will land on the moon in 2025 at the earliest.

Other needs: Vehicles – pressurized and unpressurized – so astronauts can move around, as well as habitats.

Finally, for sustainable access to an energy source, NASA is developing portable nuclear fission systems.

It will be much easier to solve any problems that appear on the moon, only a few days after it Marswhich can only be accessed within at least several months.

– Create a waypoint –

The main pillar of the Artemis program is the construction of a space station in lunar orbit, called Gateway, which will serve as a relay before the flight to Mars.

Sean Fuller, who is in charge of the Gateway programme, told AFP that all the necessary equipment could be sent there on “multiple launches”, before the crew finally joined them for the long journey.

“It’s like you stop at your gas station to make sure you get all of your stuff, and then you’re on your way.”

– Maintaining leadership in China –

Apart from Mars, another reason put forward by the Americans to settle on the Moon is to do so before the Chinese, World Health Organization It plans to send astronauts by 2030.

China is the main rival to the United States today as the once proud Russian space program has faded.

“We don’t want China to suddenly get there and say, ‘This is our exclusive land,'” NASA chief Bill Nelson said in a recent interview.

– for the sake of science –

While the Apollo missions returned to a land Approximately 400 kilograms of lunar rocks, new samples will make it possible to deepen our knowledge of this celestial body and its formation.

“The samples we collected during the Apollo missions changed the way we look at our solar system,” astronaut Jessica Meir told AFP. “I think we can expect that from the Artemis program as well.”

It also predicts more scientific and technological breakthroughs, just as it happened in the era of Apollo.