Humanity is returning to the moon in three years - or so is NASA's plan. Artemis III is to be NASA's first crewed Moon landing and is the third planned flight of its Orion spacecraft on the Space Launch System (SLS). It will be the first time that a crewed mission will have returned to the moon since 1972 after Apollo 17.

The plan had been for the mission to take place in 2024, but in 2021 that was pushed back to 2025. If SpaceX has its way and if the mission is pushed back much further, Elon Musk's SpaceX just might be going to Mars before NASA can get back to the moon.

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The Artemis Project to Return To The Moon

The Artemis program has been in development since the December 2017 ratification of the Space Policy Directive 1, calling for a crewed lunar campaign.

  • Date: Scheduled for Launch in 2025
  • Destination: Moon's South Polar Region
  • Duration: About A Week

The plan for Artemis III is for the crew to land at the Moon's south polar region and to have two astronauts on the Moon for around a week. One of the crew is to include the first woman on the Moon.

  • Woman: First Woman On The Moon
  • Man: 13th Man On The Moon

The whole crew on the Orion leaving earth is to number four - of while only two will embark on the Human Landing System (HLS) on the moon with the other two staying behind on the Gateway / Orion orbital complex.

"NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the Moon."

- NASA

The delay was precipitated by a report concluding that the spacesuits would not be ready until April 2025 at the earliest. And, according to the BBC, a funding shortfall and a lawsuit over the landing vehicle. The delay had been expected.

Related: 15 Incredible Space Tourism Options Coming Soon (5 Destinations Already Available Today)

Could Ice On The Moon Be The Moon Fuel of the Future?

The plan for the mission is to land on the lunar south pole, which is thought to hold vast stores of water-ice in craters that never see sunlight. It is hoped that the ice in these craters could be used to make fuel on the Moon.

If that could be possible, it would significantly bring down the cost of lunar exploration as it would alleviate the need to transport the full from Earth.

Before NASA goes so far as to put astronauts on the moon, it will launch its first mission soon. The Artemis I mission is set to launch the Orion spacecraft on the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket without people aboard. As of the time of writing (1 March 2022) that date is set for 20 March 2022.

  • Artemis I Launch Date: 20 March 2022

Equipment Of The Artemis Program

The equipment that NASA is planning to use for its Artemis III program includes the Space Launch System, Orion, Gateway, and SpaceX's Starship.

  • Space Launch System: The Super Heavy Lift Launch To Launch The Orion Into Tran-Lunar Orbit
  • Orion: The Crewed Transport Vehicle To get The Crew From Earth to The Gateway Orbit and Back
  • Gateway: A Small Modular Space Station, It is To be Established In Near-rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) - Both The HLS and Orion Are Planned To Dock With It
  • Starship HLS: SpaceX's All New and Revolutionary Reusable Starship. The Astronauts Are Planned To Transfer From Orion to Starship HLS. It Will Then Descend Onto The Lunar Surface And Return Them To Orion

Related: The World's First Hotel In Outer Space Is Coming In 2025!

SpaceX's All-New Starship

SpaceX's Starship is the vehicle that is being developed to fly by the moon as part of the #dearMoon project. That project is a revolutionary tourism project being founded by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. This is being planned for next year (2023) even though the Starship is still in development. This is all part of the emerging market of space tourism that includes Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin.

The Starship is currently undergoing testing at a site in southern Texas. The Starship is to be a fully reusable and super heavy-lift launch vehicle and as of the beginning of 2022 is still in development.

  • Status: Still In Development
  • Reusable: The Starship Will Be Fully Reusable

It is a fully reusable and super heavy-lift launch vehicle and as of the beginning of 2022 is still in development.

  • Status: Still In Development
  • Reusable: The Starship Will Be Fully Reusable

At first, the Starship will be used to deploy satellites, and then it will be used for space tourists. It will then be optimized for lunar landings and even Mars missions.

Next: Space Tourism Is Becoming A Real Thing, Now Even Captain Kirk Is Going To Space