NASA selects potential regions to land crew for Artemis III mission

By | August 21, 2022

As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to the Moon as part of its Artemis missions, the space agency has identified 13 potential locations for landing crewed missions near the lunar South Pole of Earth’s sole natural satellite. Each of these regions has multiple potential landing sites for Artemis III, which will be the first Artemis mission that will bring crew to the lunar surface, including the first woman to set foot on the Moon.

“Selecting these regions means we are one giant leap closer to returning humans to the Moon for the first time since Apollo. When we do, it will be unlike any mission that’s come before as astronauts venture into dark areas previously unexplored by humans and lay the groundwork for future long-term stays,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for the Artemis Campaign Development Division, in a NASA press statement.

The candidate regions identified by NASA are as follows:

Faustini Rim A
Peak Near Shackleton
Connecting Ridge
Connecting Ridge Extension
de Gerlache Rim 1
de Gerlache Rim 2
de Gerlache-Kocher Massif
Malapert Massif
Leibnitz Beta Plateau
Nobile Rim 1
Nobile Rim 2
Amundsen Rim

A team of scientists and engineers from across NASA assessed the area near the Moon’s South Pole using decades of publications, lunar science findings and data from the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Along with considering launch window availability, the team evaluated these regions based on their ability to accommodate a safe landing, taking into account criteria including terrain slope, ease of communication with Earth and lighting conditions.

All the selected regions are within six degrees of latitude of the lunar South Pole and collectively contain diverse geologic features. Since specific landing sights are only ideal based on certain launch windows, multiple regions have been selected to ensure flexibility to launch throughout the year. But all the regions are considered scientifically significant because of their proximity to the lunar South Pole, an area rich in resources with permanently shadowed areas and terrain unexplored by humans.

“Several of the proposed sites within the regions are located among some of the oldest parts of the Moon, and together with the permanently shadowed regions, provide the opportunity to learn about the history of the Moon through previously unstudied lunar materials,” said Sarah Noble, Artemis lunar science lead for NASA’s Planetary Science Division, in a press statement.

NASA will discuss these 13 regions with the broader science and engineering communities during workshops and conferences to receive input about the merits of each region. Along with informing site selections in the future, the space agency may also identify additional regions for consideration based on the feedback. It will select sites within these regions for Artemis III after it identifies the mission’s target launch dates.

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