Artemis program
Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway with approaching Orion spacecraft.jpg
Artwork of Orion approaching the Gateway (right) in lunar orbit
CountryUnited States
PurposeCrewed lunar exploration
Program history
First flightExploration Flight Test 1
Launch site(s)Cape Canaveral · Kennedy
Vehicle information
Crew vehicleOrion MPCV
Launch vehicle(s)SLS · Delta IV Heavy (EFT-1)

The Artemis program is an ongoing crewed spaceflight program carried out by the NASA, US commercial spaceflight companies, and international partners such as ESA,[2] with the goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface by 2024. Artemis would be the first 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 existing spacecraft such as Orion, the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway space station, and Commercial Lunar Payload Services, and a yet-to-be-developed 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.[3] As of 2019, full funding had yet to be approved by Congress.[4][5]


The current version of the Artemis program incorporates several major components of other cancelled NASA projects, such as the Constellation program and the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Originally proposed by President George W. Bush in 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 2006 through 2009.

In 2008, president Barack Obama was elected. He 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. The committee also produced three outlines for future missions. The project was put on hold in 2009. On 15 April 2010, President Obama spoke at the Kennedy Space Center, announcing the administration's plans for NASA. None of the three outlined proposals in the Committee's final report were selected.[33]

President Obama cancelled the Constellation program and rejected immediate plans to return to the Moon on the premise that the plan had become nonviable. 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.[34]

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.[5]

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 will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

On March 26, 2019, Vice President Mike Pence announced that NASA's Moon landing goal would be accelerated by 4 years with a planned landing in 2024.[6] On May 14, 2019, Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the name of the new program to be Artemis, named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology. Despite the new goals, Mars missions by the 2030s are still the long term priority.


Orion testing program

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

Three tests of the Orion spacecraft will precede the launch of Artemis 1. Pad Abort-1, the second and final mission in the preceding Constellation program,[7][8] involved a successful test of Orion's launch escape system using a boilerplate capsule on 6 May 2010.[7][9] The second test of Orion was Exploration Flight Test-1 on 5 December 2014.[10][11] During the mission, 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).[12][13] The third and final test of Orion prior to Artemis 1 will be Ascent Abort-2 on 2 July 2019, which will test an updated launch abort system at maximum aerodynamic load,[8][14][15] using a 10,000-kilogram (22,000 lb) Orion test article and a custom launch vehicle built by Orbital Sciences.[15][16]

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

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.

With the aim of sending small lander missions to the lunar surface as a precursor to human exploration, NASA established the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program in March 2018.[18] The program was based on responses to a request for information issued by NASA in May 2017 into the capability of American commercial providers to launch payloads to the Moon.[19] Under the program, the agency will fund commercial providers capable of delivering lunar landers with scientific payloads through indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts.[20] It will qualify proposals capable of delivering at least 10 kilograms (22 lb) of payload by the end of 2021.[20] Proposals for mid-sized landers capable of delivering between 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) and 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) of cargo for launch beyond 2021 will also be considered by NASA.[21]

This new focus on commercial landers led to the cancellation of the Resource Prospector rover mission,[22] which was also intended to be a precursor to human exploration, as well as the first polar lunar lander and the first robotic American lunar rover,[23][24] a few days before a draft request for proposals for the CLPS program was published by NASA on 27 April 2018.[20][24] By the time of its cancellation, US$100 million had been spent on its development,[25] and various technologies intended for the rover, such as scientific instruments, will be repurposed for missions selected for launch under the CLPS program.[20][25][26] The deadline for submissions for the first round of the program occurred on 9 October 2018.[27] The Artemis-7 lander by Draper, a not-for-profit engineering firm previously involved in the Apollo program, was one of the proposals submitted.[27]

While Lockheed Martin hired commercial space developer NanoRacks to study commercial opportunities for cargo delivery using the Orion spacecraft,[28] at the 69th International Astronautical Congress in October 2018, Lockheed Martin presented their concept (Lockheed Martin Lunar Lander) for a reusable lunar lander that would shuttle astronauts between the lunar surface and the Gateway, incorporating various technologies developed by Lockheed for the Orion spacecraft.[29][30] Lockheed Martin intends to submit its proposal when NASA starts to solicit proposals for larger crewed lunar landers to follow the CLPS program.[31]

The result of CLPS will be the launch of small robotic landers and rovers to the Moon with the goals of exploration, in situ resource utilization (ISRU), and lunar science.[32]

In November 2018, NASA announced the first nine companies that are qualified to bid on transportation service contracts.[33] 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 February 21, 2019.[34] Additional instrument proposals have been solicited from the broader scientific community.



Artwork of a spacecraft flying above Earth
Artemis 1 Orion Spacecraft

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV) is an American-European interplanetary spacecraft intended to carry a crew of four astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) as part of the Artemis program. Currently under development by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) for launch on the Space Launch System, Orion is intended to facilitate human exploration of the Moon, asteroids and of Mars and to retrieve crew or supplies from the International Space Station if needed. [35][36]


Originally, NASA had intended to build the Gateway as part of the now cancelled Asteroid Redirect Mission. But it has since been repurposed to support NASA's Artemis program. It will serve as a waypoint for the Orion MPCV and lunar lander as well as a secondary propulsion system to help change orbits and enable landings anywhere on the Moon. By 2024, the orbiting Gateway will be in its early assembly stage, and by then it will be made up of the 'Power and Propulsion Element' and a small habitat called Utilization Module.[3] The Gateway 'Power and Propulsion Element' is being made by a division of Maxar Technologies (formerly SSL)[37] and the components and modules will be constructed by commercial companies and international partners, such as ESA's ESPRIT module[38]. The Gateway commercial launches are separate from those for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services.[39]

Power and Propulsion Element

The Power and Propulsion Element started development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the now canceled Asteroid Redirect Mission. It was envisioned as a robotic, high performance solar electric spacecraft which would retrieve a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid and bring it to lunar orbit for study.[40] When ARM was cancelled, the concept was repurposed as the propulsion system for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.[41][42] The Power and Propulsion Element 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 Power and Propulsion Element is being developed and fabricated by a division of Maxar Technologies.[37]

Crewed landers

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.[46] 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."[47]

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

Launch vehicles

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

Space Launch System

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a Space Shuttle-derived super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle. It is a primary part of NASA's deep space exploration plans,[8][9] including the Artemis crewed missions to the Moon, and could also serve as part of a future program to Mars.[10][11][12] SLS follows the cancellation of the Constellation program and is to replace the retired Space Shuttle. The SLS is to be the most powerful rocket in existence[13] with a total thrust greater than that of the Saturn V,[14] although Saturn V could carry a greater payload mass.

In April 2017, NASA announced that the schedule for the first launch of SLS and Artemis 1 would slip to 2019.[35] In November 2017, Artemis 1 slipped further to June 2020.[6]

Commercial vehicles

Several launches previously planned for the SLS Block 1B are now expected to fly on commercial launcher vehicles such as Falcon Heavy, New Glenn, OmegA, and Vulcan.[48]



Artemis 1 is planned to be the first flight of the SLS and will be launched in July 2020 as a test of the completed Orion and SLS system.[49] 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.[50]

Artemis 2, the first crewed mission of the program, will launch four astronauts in 2022 on a free-return flyby of the Moon at a distance of 8,900 kilometers (5,500 mi).[51][52][53]

After Artemis 2, the Power and Propulsion Element of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway and three components of an expendable lunar lander are planned to be delivered on multiple launches from commercial launch service providers.[54]

Artemis 3 is planned to launch in 2024 aboard a SLS Block 1 rocket 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.[54][55][56][57]

List of Artemis program missions
Mission Patch Launch date Launch pad Crew Launch vehicle[b] Duration[c]
Artemis 1
Exploration Mission-1 insignia
July 2020 Kennedy LC-39B N/A SLS Block 1 ~25d
Artemis 2 1x1.png 2022 Kennedy LC-39B TBA SLS Block 1 ~10d
Artemis 3 1x1.png 2024 Kennedy LC-39B TBA SLS Block 1 ~30d


As of 2019, proposal curated by William H. Gerstenmaier plans four more launches of SLS Block 1B launch vehicles with crewed Orion spacecraft and logistical modules of the Gateway between 2024 and 2028.[58][59] The crewed Artemis 4 through 6 would launch yearly between 2025 and 2027, testing in situ resource utilization and nuclear power on the lunar surface with a partially reusable lander. Artemis 7 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, Artemis 8, later that year.[60][61] 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.[59][61]

List of proposed Artemis program missions
Mission Launch date Launch pad Launch vehicle[b] Duration[c]
Artemis 4 2025 Kennedy LC-39B SLS Block 1B ~30d
Artemis 5 2026 Kennedy LC-39B SLS Block 1B ~30d
Artemis 6 2027 Kennedy LC-39B SLS Block 1B ~30d
Artemis 7 2028 Kennedy LC-39B SLS Block 1B Cargo ~30d
Artemis 8 2028 Kennedy LC-39B SLS Block 1B >60d

See also



  1. ^ Serial number displayed in parentheses.
  2. ^ a b Serial number displayed in parentheses.
  3. ^ a b Time displayed in days, hours, minutes, and seconds.


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  5. Hill, Bill (27 August 2018). "Exploration Systems Development Update" (PDF). National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Retrieved 17 October 2018.CS1 maint: Date and year (link)
  6. Sloss, Philip (11 September 2018). "NASA updates Lunar Gateway plans". Archived from the original on 17 October 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018.CS1 maint: Date and year (link)


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  50. ^ Hill 2018, Page 2, "The first uncrewed, integrated flight test of NASA's Orion spacecraft [...] Enter Distant Retrograde Orbit for next 6–10 days [...] 37,000 miles from the surface of the Moon [...] Mission duration: 25.5 days"
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  54. ^ a b Foust 2019, "And before NASA sends astronauts to the moon in 2024, the agency will first have to launch five aspects of the Lunar Gateway, all of which will be commercial vehicles that launch separately and join each other in lunar orbit. First, a power and propulsion element will launch in 2022. Then, the crew module will launch (without a crew) in 2023. In 2024, during the months leading up to the crewed landing, NASA will launch the last critical components: a transfer vehicle that will ferry landers from the Gateway to a lower lunar orbit, a descent module that will bring the astronauts to the lunar surface, and an ascent module that will bring them back up to the transfer vehicle, which will then return them to the Gateway."
  55. ^ Bridenstine & Grush 2019, "Now, for Artemis 3 that carries our crew to the Gateway, we need to have the crew have access to a lander. So, that means that at Gateway we're going to have the Power and Propulsion Element, which will be launched commercially, the Utilization Module, which will be launched commercially, and then we'll have a lander there.
  56. ^ Bridenstine & Grush 2019, "The direction that we have right now is that the next man and the first woman will be Americans, and that we will land on the south pole of the Moon in 2024."
  57. ^ Chang, Kenneth (25 May 2019). "For Artemis Mission to Moon, NASA Seeks to Add Billions to Budget". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019. Under the NASA plan, a mission to land on the moon would take place during the third launch of the Space Launch System. Astronauts, including the first woman to walk on the moon, Mr. Bridenstine said, would first stop at the orbiting lunar outpost. They would then take a lander to the surface near its south pole, where frozen water exists within the craters.a-moon-mars.html
  58. ^ Berger 2019, "Developed by the agency's senior human spaceflight manager, Bill Gerstenmaier, this plan is everything Pence asked for—an urgent human return, a Moon base, a mix of existing and new contractors."
  59. ^ a b Foust 2019, "After Artemis 3, NASA would launch four additional crewed missions to the lunar surface between 2025 and 2028. Meanwhile, the agency would work to expand the Gateway by launching additional components and crew vehicles and laying the foundation for an eventual moon base."
  60. ^ Berger 2019, "This decade-long plan, which entails 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, as well as a mix of robotic and human landers, culminates with a "Lunar Surface Asset Deployment" in 2028, likely the beginning of a surface outpost for long-duration crew stays."
  61. ^ a b Berger 2019, [Illustration] "NASA's "notional" plan for a human return to the Moon by 2024, and an outpost by 2028."

External links

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