NASA's project Artemis aims to put a woman on the moon by 2024. NASA.

While Apollo’s crew placed the first steps on the Moon, Artemis opens the door for humanity to sustainably work and live on another world for the first time. Using the lunar surface as a proving ground for living on Mars, this next chapter in exploration will forever establish our presence in the stars. NASA is returning to the Moon – to stay – but how will astronauts go to the Moon again?

First and foremost, let’s answer your questions: How astronauts go back to the moon? What kind of spacecraft will bring astronauts to the Moon in 2024? NASA’s biggest challenge in attempting a return to the Moon might be acquiring a large lander that, after launching the heavy-lift rocket, could carry astronauts all the way to the lunar surface.

It’s been 48 years since NASA last launched an exploration-class rocket to carry humans beyond low-Earth orbit. That is slated to change, when NASA will fire the new Space Launch System with a new lander, Orion. This advanced Orion module will provide the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit and to carry out deep-space missions. The vehicle will carry as many as four astronauts for up to 21 days. After being launched on NASA’s Space Launch System, Orion will take a crew to the Gateway in lunar orbit.

To return to the Moon by 2024, NASA will rely upon a lunar-orbit docking station known as the Lunar Gateway. The Lunar Gateway is an in-development space station in lunar orbit intended to serve as a solar-powered communications hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module, and holding area for rovers and other robots. Using the Gateway to stage astronaut descents, astronauts will use lunar landers to reach the moon’s surface, setting the stage for future, fully reusable lunar landing vehicles. The focus now is using the Orion spacecraft to shuttle humans back and forth from the Earth all the way out to the Moon.

NASA dropped requirements for the lunar lander on the 2024 mission to dock with the Gateway. Instead, the Orion spacecraft could dock directly with the lander in lunar orbit before starting the descent. Once in lunar orbit, all four astronauts will use the lunar landing craft to travel to the moon’s surface, while the Orion spacecraft stays in lunar orbit. Once the astronauts’ lunar mission is complete, they will return to the orbiting Orion vehicle using a lunar ascent module.

The Lunar Gateway is an in-development space station in lunar orbit intended to serve as a solar-powered communications hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module, and holding area for rovers and other robots.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft builds upon more than 50 years of spaceflight research and development. It is uniquely designed to carry astronaut crews to deep space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain crew during space travel, and provide safe reentry at the high-Earth return velocities typically needed to come home from missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Orion is capable of supporting a crew of four astronauts for periods of up to 21 days. It is designed to provide communications, navigation, power, and propulsion to carry people and cargo in the harsh environment of deep space and, with a planned mission kit, dock with the Gateway. Through modification and with the support of other new deep space elements, most of the Orion systems could be capable of operations in deep space for periods of time up to 1,000 days. The Orion will also be able to provide key initial life-support and abort capabilities to and from the Gateway. Additionally, the Orion systems are designed to operate in a contingency mode to augment life support systems in other space transport systems.

NASA stands on the verge of commercializing low-Earth orbit. These experiences and partnerships will [enable NASA to go back to the Moon in 2024. NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration is the biggest rocket ever built, the Space Launch System, the Orion spacecraft and the Gateway lunar command module. With its partners, NASA will use the Gateway lunar command module orbiting the Moon as a staging point for missions that allow astronauts to explore more parts of the lunar surface than ever before.

NASA’s Artemis program has a bold charter to land astronauts, including the first woman and the next man, on the Moon by 2024. To achieve this feat, the Orion spacecraft has been designed, developed and tested to gear up for humanity’s next giant leap into deep space. Orion promises to be yet another phenomenal milestone for NASA and for us as a whole.

The Gateway and Orion program was also addressed as one of the main international collaboration programs. Orion is the shuttle that bring astronauts to the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway orbiting the moon and intended to serve as a solar-powered communications hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module, and holding area for rovers and other robots.

Once on the Gateway, astronauts will find docked the Lunar lander that will take them to the Moon surface; from there the ascent module of the lander will be used to fly back to the Gateway. The Orion spacecraft will be used for the trip back to Earth; just before re-entering the atmosphere Orion will separate into the crew module and the service module, the former safely ferrying astronauts home, the latter burning in the atmosphere.

Orion is the critical vehicle of NASA’s architecture for returning humans to the surface of the Moon. “We are really excited about this mission, and Orion is on track to support the administration’s challenge,” Mark Kirasich, NASA Orion program manager, said of the 2024 lunar landing goal. With a recent successful test of the spacecraft’s abort system now complete, Mark is optimistic the spacecraft will be ready to send humans to the moon in 2024 even as development schedules continue to slip.

Can NASA really return people to the Moon by 2024? And how astronauts go to the moon? If you ever get the chance to see what NASA Orion program is working on, take it! Orion is incredible.

Kent Wang

Kent Wang is a research fellow at the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies (ITAS), a conservative Washington-based think-tank focusing on aspects of US-Taiwan relations, and is broadly interested in the United States-Taiwan-China trilateral equation, as well as in East Asian security architecture.

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