Artemis program
Artemis program (contrast wordmark).svg
CountryUnited States
PurposeCrewed lunar exploration
Program history
Maiden flightArtemis 1[2]
First crewed flightArtemis 2
Launch site(s)
Vehicle information
Crew vehicle
Launch vehicle(s)

The Artemis program is an ongoing crewed spaceflight program carried out by NASA, U.S. commercial spaceflight companies, and international partners such as ESA,[2] with the goal of landing "the first woman and the next man" on the Moon, specifically at the lunar south pole region by 2024. Artemis would be the next step towards the long-term goal of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon, laying the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy, and eventually sending humans to Mars.

In 2017, the lunar campaign was authorized by Space Policy Directive 1, utilizing various ongoing spacecraft programs such as Orion, the Lunar Gateway, Commercial Lunar Payload Services, and an undeveloped crewed lander. The Space Launch System will serve as the primary launch vehicle for Orion, while commercial launch vehicles are planned for use to launch various other elements of the campaign.[5] NASA requested $1.6 billion in additional funding for Artemis for fiscal year 2020,[1] while the Senate Appropriations Committee requested from NASA a five-year budget profile[6] which is needed for evaluation and approval by Congress.[7][8]


The current Artemis program incorporates several major components of other cancelled NASA projects, such as the Constellation program and the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Originally legislated by the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Constellation included the development of Ares I, Ares V, and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. The program ran from the early 2000s until 2010.

In 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama established the Augustine Committee to determine how viable a Moon landing was by 2020 with the then-current budget. The committee concluded that the project was massively underfunded and that a 2020 Moon landing was impossible. Constellation was subsequently put on hold. On 15 April 2010, President Obama spoke at the Kennedy Space Center, announcing the administration's plans for NASA and cancelling the non-Orion elements of Constellation on the premise that the plan had become unviable.[9] He instead promised $6 billion in additional funding and called for development of a new heavy lift rocket program to be ready for construction by 2015 with crewed missions to Mars orbit by the mid-2030s.[10]

On 30 June 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to re-establish the National Space Council, chaired by Vice-President Mike Pence. The Trump administration's first budget request kept Obama-era human spaceflight programs in place: Commercial Crew Development, the Space Launch System, and the Orion crew capsule for deep space missions, while reducing Earth science research and calling for the elimination of NASA's education office.[11]

On 11 December 2017, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond. The policy calls for the NASA administrator to "lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities." The effort intends to more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon and laying the foundation of eventual human exploration of Mars.[2]

On 26 March 2019, Vice President Mike Pence announced that NASA's Moon landing goal would be accelerated by 4 years with a planned landing in 2024.[12] On 14 May 2019, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that the new program would be named Artemis, who is both the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.[13] Despite the immediate new goals, Mars missions by the 2030s are still intended.[2]

Supporting programs and launchers

Implementation of the Artemis program will require additional programs, projects, and commercial launchers to support the construction of the Lunar Gateway, launch resupply missions to the station, and deploy numerous robotic spacecraft and instruments to the lunar surface.[14] Several precursor robotic missions are being coordinated through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, that is dedicated to scouting and characterization of lunar resources, as well as testing principles for in-situ resource utilization.[14][15]

Commercial Lunar Payload Services

Models of the first three commercial landers selected for the program. Left to right: Peregrine by Astrobotic Technology, Nova-C by Intuitive Machines, and Z-01 by OrbitBeyond.

In March 2018, NASA established the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program with the aim of sending small robotic landers and rovers mostly to the lunar south pole region as a precursor to and in support of crewed missions.[15][16][17] The main goals include scouting of lunar resources, in situ resource utilization (ISRU) feasibility testing, and lunar science.[18] NASA will award commercial providers indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts to develop and fly lunar landers with scientific payloads .[19] The first stage considered proposals capable of delivering at least 10 kilograms (22 lb) of payload by the end of 2021.[19] Proposals for mid-sized landers capable of delivering between 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) and 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) of cargo will also be considered for launch beyond 2021.[20]

In November 2018, NASA announced the first nine companies that are qualified to bid on the CLPS transportation service contracts.[21] These companies are:

Contractor Vehicles
Astrobotic Technology Peregrine lander
Deep Space Systems rover; design and development services
Draper Laboratory Artemis-7 lander (the name is coincidentally similar
to the Artemis program and not an endorsement.)
Firefly Aerospace Firefly Alpha and Beta launch vehicles
Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander
Lockheed Martin Space Systems McCandless Lunar Lander
Masten Space Systems XL-1 lander
Moon Express MX-1, MX-2, MX-5, MX-9 landers;
sample return vehicle
OrbitBeyond Z-01 and Z-02 landers

The first twelve payloads and experiments from NASA centers were announced on 21 February 2019.[22] On 1 July 2019, NASA announced the selection of twelve additional payloads, provided by universities and industry. Seven of these are scientific investigations while five are technology demonstrations.[23]

The Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads (LSITP) is a supporting program that is soliciting payloads that do not require significant additional development. They will include technology demonstrators to advance lunar science or the commercial development of the Moon.[24][25]


Space Launch System

Diagram of four versions of the Space Launch System rocket
The planned evolution of the Space Launch System, the primary launch vehicle for Orion

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a US super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle, which is under development as of October 2019.

The initial SLS Block 1 is required by the US Congress to lift a payload of 95 metric tons (209,000 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO), and will launch Artemis 1 and Artemis 2. The later Block 1B is intended to debut the Exploration Upper Stage and launch the Artemis 3 and the notional Artemis 4-8.[26] Block 2 is planned to replace the initial Shuttle-derived boosters with advanced boosters and would have a LEO capability of more than 150 metric tons (330,000 lb), again as required by Congress.[27] Block 2 is intended to enable crewed launches to Mars.[3] The SLS will launch the Orion spacecraft and use the ground operations and launch facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In March 2019, the Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request for NASA. This budget did not include any money for the Block 1B and Block 2 variants of SLS. It is uncertain whether these future variants of SLS will be developed.[28] However, it seems likely that Block 1B development will be continued, with a request for a budget increase of 1.6 billion dollars towards SLS, Orion, and crewed landers. Block 1B is currently intended to debut on Artemis 3, and will be used mainly for co manifested crew transfers and logistic rather than constructing the Gateway. An uncrewed Block 1B is planned to launch the Lunar Surface Asset in 2028, the first lunar outpost of the Artemis program. Block 2 development will most likely start in the late 2020s, after NASA is regularly visiting the lunar surface and shifts focus towards Mars.[29]

Supporting launchers

Although the Delta IV Heavy and Falcon Heavy were considered by NASA to launch a crewed Orion, the agency ultimately decided to use only the SLS for the Orion spacecraft.[4]

The PPE module and the Minimal Habitation Module (MHM) of the Lunar Gateway, which were previously planned for the SLS Block 1B, will now fly on commercial launch vehicles yet to be determined.[30][31][32][33] The Gateway will be supported and resupplied by approximately 28 commercial cargo missions launched by undetermined commercial rockets.[33] The Gateway Logistics Services (GLS) will be in charge of the resupply missions,[33] as well for contracting the construction of a resupply vehicle capable to remain docked to the Lunar Gateway for one year of operations, provide and generate its own power while docked, and be capable of autonomous disposal at the end of its mission.[33][34]
The three components of an expendable crewed lunar lander will also be deployed to the station on a commercial launcher before the arrival of the first crewed mission, Artemis 3.[35]



Artemis 1 Orion crew module mounted on the European service module

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV) is a US-European spacecraft intended to carry a crew of four astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).[36] Currently[when?] under development by the NASA and ESA for launch on the Space Launch System (SLS),[37] Orion is intended to be the main crew vehicle of the Artemis lunar exploration program as well as potential crew flights to Mars and beyond.[38]

Lunar Gateway

Possible configuration of Lunar Gateway
Artist's concept of Lunar Gateway orbiting the Moon. The Orion MPCV is docked on the left.

The Lunar Gateway, officially named the Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway (LOP-G), is a proposed 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.[39]

The Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) started development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the now canceled Asteroid Redirect Mission. The original concept was a robotic, high performance solar electric spacecraft that would retrieve a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid and bring it to lunar orbit for study.[40] When ARM was cancelled, the solar electric propulsion was repurposed for LOP-G.[41][42] The PPE will allow access to the entire lunar surface and act as a space tug for visiting craft.[43] It will also serve as the command and communications center of the Gateway.[44][45] The PPE is estimated to have a mass of 8–9 t (18,000–20,000 lb) and the capability to generate 50 kW (67 hp)[46] of solar electric power for its ion thrusters, which can be supplemented by chemical propulsion.[47] It is targeting launch on a commercial vehicle in 2022.[30][48] In May 2019, Maxar Technologies was contracted by NASA to manufacture this module, which is being based on Maxar's 1300 series satellite bus.[49]

Crewed lander concepts

As of 2018, work on crewed landers was intended to be supported under a new budget line called "Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities" included in the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, which seeks $116.5 million for the program. As of November 2018, Congress had yet to pass a final fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill for NASA.[50] Some lander architectures have already been suggested and are listed below.

  • The Lockheed Martin Lunar Lander concept, presented in October 2018, proposes a reusable crewed lunar lander with a mass of 22 metric tons (49,000 lb) and capable of carrying up to 1 metric ton (2,200 lb) of payload, and a crew of four, for a duration of two weeks before returning to the Gateway for servicing and refueling.[51][52] A drawback is that not even the future Block 1B version of Space Launch System can place more than 45 tons onto a trajectory to the Moon, so additional launches would be required to transport fuel depots for the lander.[50][53]
  • Advanced Exploration Lander is a three-stage lander concept by a NASA team. After departure from the Gateway, a transfer module would take the crew to a low lunar orbit and then separate, after which the descent module would handle the rest of the journey to the lunar surface.[50] A crew of up to four would spend up to two weeks on the surface before reboarding the ascent module, which would take them back to the Gateway.[53] Each module would have a mass of approximately 12 to 15 metric tons[50] and would be delivered separately by commercial launchers and integrated at the Gateway. The astronauts would board the lander at the Gateway's near-rectilinear halo orbit that goes between about 1,000 and 70,000 kilometers (620 and 43,500 mi) above the Moon, with the circular low orbit about 100 kilometers (62 mi) high. Both the ascent and transfer modules could be designed to be reused, with the descent module left on the lunar surface.[50][53] If selected and funded, it could be tested as a stand-alone robotic mission in 2024[50] and begin crewed landings in 2028 departing from the Gateway.[53]

In May 2019 NASA announced 11 contracts worth $45.5 million in total for studies on transfer vehicles, descent elements, descent element prototypes, refueling element studies and prototypes.[54] One of the requirements is that selected companies will have to contribute at least 20% of the total cost of the project "to reduce costs to taxpayers and encourage early private investments in the lunar economy."[55]

Two of these proposed landers have been presented and described in some detail, the Lockheed Martin Lunar Lander and a stretched tank version of Blue Origin's Blue Moon lander with an added ascent stage.

Company Vehicles
Aerojet Rocketdyne One transfer vehicle study
Blue Origin One descent element study, one transfer vehicle study, and one transfer vehicle prototype
Boeing One descent element study, two descent element prototypes, one transfer vehicle study, one transfer vehicle prototype, one refueling element study, and one refueling element prototype
Dynetics One descent element study and five descent element prototypes
Lockheed Martin Space Systems One descent element study, four descent element prototypes, one transfer vehicle study, and one refueling element study
Masten Space Systems One descent element prototype
Maxar (formerly SSL) One refueling element study and one refueling element prototype
Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems One descent element study, four descent element prototypes, one refueling element study, and one refueling element prototype
OrbitBeyond Two refueling element prototypes
Sierra Nevada Corporation One descent element study, one descent element prototype, one transfer vehicle study, one transfer vehicle prototype, and one refueling element study
SpaceX One descent element study, one descent element prototype

HERACLES robotic sample return

HERACLES (Human-Enhanced Robotic Architecture and Capability for Lunar Exploration and Science) is a proposed ESA-JAXA-CSA robotic lander and sample-return mission utilizing the Gateway station.[56] It involves dispatching an 11-metric-ton (24,000 lb) lunar lander from Earth aboard an Ariane 6[57]:slides 7, 9 and 10 which would land on the Moon with a descent module. The ascent module would launch from the lunar surface to the Gateway, and would be refueled and paired with a new descent module dispatched from Earth. The rovers would land on the first and fourth lander missions, collecting samples and loading them on the ascent module, then traversing the hundreds of kilometers between landing sites on the lunar surface to rendezvous and load the next lander.[58] The ascent module would return each time to the Gateway, where it would be captured by the Canadian robotic arm and samples transferred to an Orion craft for transport to Earth with returning astronauts. The second and third landings would each have 500 kg (1,100 lb) payload available for alternate uses. The aim of the project is the development by ESA of a reusable lunar ascent engine, four of which could be clustered to power a reusable crewed or robotic lander in the future, alongside the development of Gateway telecommunication command and control technology. ESA envisages that HERACLES could be approved in 2019, allowing a sample-return on the fourth or fifth Orion flight in the 2026-2030 timeframe, generating an early scientific return for the station and robotic surveying of the conditions that will be encountered at future crewed landing sites several years in advance.


The Artemis program has received criticisms from several space professionals:

Mark Whittington, who is a contributor to The Hill and an author of several space exploration studies, stated in an article that the "lunar orbit project doesn’t help us get back to the Moon".[59]

Aerospace engineer, author, and Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin has voiced his distaste for the Lunar Gateway which is part of the Artemis program as of 2019. He presented an alternative approach to a 2024 crewed lunar landing called Moon Direct, a successor to his proposed Mars Direct. His vision phases out the SLS and Orion, replacing them with Falcon rockets and Dragon 2. It also proposes using a heavy ferry/lander that would be refueled on the lunar surface via In situ resource utilization and transfer the crew from LEO to the lunar surface. The concept bears a heavy resemblance to NASA's own Space Transportation System proposal from the 1970s.

Former Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin disagrees with NASA's current goals and priorities, including their plans for a lunar outpost. He also questioned the benefit of the idea to "send a crew to an intermediate point in space, pick up a lander there and go down". On the other hand, Aldrin expressed support for Robert Zubrin's Moon Direct concept which involves lunar landers traveling from Earth orbit to the lunar surface and back.[60]


The Orion capsule in the Pacific Ocean, following the successful Exploration Flight Test-1 mission

Orion testing

Three tests of the Orion spacecraft have been conducted prior to the launch of Artemis 1. Pad Abort-1, the second and final mission in the preceding Constellation program,[61][62][dubious ] was a successful test of Orion's launch escape system using a boilerplate capsule on 6 May 2010.[61][63] The second test of Orion was Exploration Flight Test-1 on 5 December 2014.[64][65] A stripped down version of the Orion spacecraft was launched atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket, and its reaction control system was tested in two orbits around Earth, reaching an apogee of 5,800 kilometers (3,600 mi) before making a high-energy reentry at 32,000 kilometers per hour (20,000 mph).[66][67] The third and final test of Orion prior to Artemis 1 was Ascent Abort-2 on 2 July 2019, which tested an updated launch abort system at maximum aerodynamic load,[62][68][69] using a 10,000-kilogram (22,000 lb) Orion test article and a custom launch vehicle built by Orbital Sciences.[69][70]

Orion development test flights
Mission Patch Launch Crew Launch vehicle[a] Outcome Duration
Pad Abort-1
  • 6 May 2010
  • White Sands LC-32E
N/A Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) Success 95 seconds
Exploration Flight Test 1
Exploration Flight Test-1 insignia
Success 4 hours 24 minutes
Ascent Abort-2
Ascent Abort-2 insignia
N/A Orion Abort Test Booster Success 3 minutes 13 seconds


NASA's plan for Artemis program

Artemis 1 is planned to be the maiden flight of the SLS and will be launched as a test of the completed Orion and SLS system.[72] During the mission, an uncrewed Orion capsule will spend 10 days in a distant retrograde 60,000 kilometers (37,000 mi) orbit around the Moon before returning to Earth.[73]

Artemis 2, the first crewed mission of the program, will launch four astronauts in 2022[2] or 2023[74] on a free-return flyby of the Moon at a distance of 8,900 kilometers (5,500 mi).[75][76]

After Artemis 2, the Power and Propulsion Element of the Lunar Gateway and three components of an expendable lunar lander are planned to be delivered on multiple launches from commercial launch service providers.[35]

Artemis 3 is planned to be the maiden flight of the SLS Block 1B and will use the minimalist Gateway and expendable lander to achieve the first crewed lunar landing of the program. The flight is planned to touch down on the lunar south pole region, with two astronauts staying there for about one week.[35][77][78][79][80]

List of Artemis program missions
Mission Patch Launch Crew Launch vehicle[a] Duration
Artemis 1
Artemis 1 insignia
N/A SLS Block 1 Crew ~25d
Artemis 2 1x1.png
TBA SLS Block 1 Crew ~10d
Artemis 3 1x1.png
  • 2024
  • Kennedy LC-39B
TBA SLS Block 1B Crew[83] ~30d


A proposal curated by William H. Gerstenmaier before his 10 July 2019 reassignment[84] suggests four more launches of SLS Block 1B launch vehicles with crewed Orion spacecraft and logistical modules of the Gateway between 2024 and 2028.[85][86] The crewed Artemis 4 through 7 would launch yearly between 2025 and 2028, testing in situ resource utilization and nuclear power on the lunar surface with a partially reusable lander. Artemis 8 would be an SLS Block 1B Cargo launch delivering a lunar outpost, known as the Lunar Surface Asset, to the Moon's surface in 2028. The Lunar Surface Asset would be used for an extended crewed lunar surface mission.[87][88] Prior to each crewed Artemis mission, various payloads to the Gateway, such as refueling depots and expendable elements of the lunar lander, would be delivered on commercial launch vehicles.[86][88]

List of proposed Artemis program missions
Mission Proposed launch Crew Launch vehicle[a] Duration
Artemis 4
  • 2025
  • Kennedy LC-39B
TBA SLS Block 1B Crew ~30d
Artemis 5
  • 2026
  • Kennedy LC-39B
TBA SLS Block 1B Crew ~30d
Artemis 6
  • 2027
  • Kennedy LC-39B
TBA SLS Block 1B Crew ~30d
Artemis 7
  • 2028
  • Kennedy LC-39B
TBA SLS Block 1B Crew >60d
Artemis 8
  • 2028
  • Kennedy LC-39B
N/A SLS Block 1B Cargo ~30d

See also



  1. ^ a b c Serial number displayed in parentheses.


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External links

  • Moon to Mars portal at NASA
  • Artemis program at NASA
  • Monthly report by the Exploration Systems Development (ESD)