the Moon, Elon Musk, Mars… the underside of space reconquest

In “Apolline Matin” this Monday on RMC and RMC Story, Nicolas Poincaré looked at NASA’s Artemis program, before the rocket took off at the start of the afternoon.

Mission Artemis is the name of NASA’s program to send men back to the Moon. The first test flight, without an astronaut, is scheduled for Monday at 2:33 p.m. (French time). The rocket, which will take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, is the most powerful in history. Three times more powerful than Ariane 5.

At the top of this super launcher, there is a habitable capsule, which is called Orion, in which we will place three mannequins, including two female mannequins, because when humans really take place in this capsule to return to the Moon, it is expected that there will be at least one woman. The first to walk on the moon.

In the meantime, it’s a test flight this Monday. The rocket will propel Orion towards the Moon, and take the opportunity to also launch a dozen mini-satellites, several of which will land on the Moon and another which will go to meet an asteroid.

Then the Orion capsule will circle the Moon one and a half times at low altitude. That is 100 kilometers. And it will then return in 42 days, to land at sea, off San Diego, California.

NASA is counting on Elon Musk

Then, if all goes well, the second Artemis mission is scheduled for 2024. It will be the exact same flight except that astronauts will replace the dummies. They will be four, all American or American.

Then we’ll get down to business. The Artemis 3 mission will land on the Moon, on a date that has not yet been set. Not before 2025…

Except that NASA designed this huge rocket that takes off today and the Orion habitable capsule, but not the machine capable of landing on the Moon. And to take off again if possible…

And the Americans finally entrusted Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, and his company Space X, with the construction of this vessel capable of landing on the moon.

During the mission, the astronauts will therefore take off aboard the same rocket as that of Monday, then they will be transferred aboard a Starship spacecraft capable of landing on the Moon. A huge ship, so big that astronauts will have to take an elevator to walk down on the Moon…

Except that these Starship ships have not yet proven themselves. And that is why no date has yet been set for this mission. Starship has been Elon Musk’s dream for 20 years. A huge machine, reusable, capable of sending into orbit loads of more than 100 or 150 tons.

The first tests took place in 2019 with success, but they were two flights of two and three seconds. The rocket has reached the altitude of one meter!

Then Space X had a series of failures. Then first successes. But at present, no rocket has yet been placed in orbit, and no astronaut has ever boarded these experimental rockets.

Even if Elon Musk so far has kept almost all his promises in space matters, it is still a hell of a bet to have entrusted him with the first moon landings of astronauts.

Before the first manned mission, Space X will have to land a Starship rocket on the moon. A rocket that won’t take off…

A base on the moon?

And in the longer term, what are we going to do on the moon? The next step will be the Lunar Gateway, the lunar portal. A space station orbiting the Moon that will serve as a relay and refueling station for rockets to refuel.

But the Americans’ longer-term project is to settle on the moon and build a permanent base there.

The challenge for them is to be there first, before the Chinese and the Russians who have plans to colonize the Moon. The Russians hope to land cosmonauts before 2030.

So far, only 12 men have walked on the moon, during six Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972. All were American servicemen, except one who was a geologist. Three of them are still alive. The last two men on the Moon were the Apollo 17 astronauts, who returned in December 1972. They had traveled 36 kilometers in their lunar car. It was extraordinary but so it was almost 50 years ago. It will therefore have taken more than half a century to return there.

As for Elon Musk, who therefore actively participates in this adventure, the Moon is only a stage for him. A springboard for the conquest of Mars. He maintains that he will be able to send a manned flight to Mars in a few years. He still plans to go there himself, to end his life there…

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