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Updated December 21st, 2023 at 17:21 IST

NASA announces plan to land an 'international' astronaut on the Moon by 2030

The announcement was made at the National Space Council meeting which was chaired on December 20 by US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington.

Reported by: Harsh Vardhan
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Artist's impression of astronauts on the Moon. | Image:NASA
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NASA has announced its new plan to land an international astronaut on the Moon by the end of this decade. The announcement was made at the National Space Council meeting which was chaired on December 20 by US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington.

The said astronaut, whose identity and nationality is yet to be announced, will fly to the Moon with three other astronauts under the Artemis Program. NASA started the program with the launch of Artemis 1 on November 16, 2022, with the next crewed mission Artemis 2 planned for late 2024.

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Each of the Artemis missions will carry four astronauts and only two from the crew will descend to the lunar surface. For Artemis 2, however, none of the astronauts will walk on the Moon as it will be launched only to test the Orion spacecraft and its readiness for humans. The landing of astronauts will begin with Artemis 3 after the mid-2020s. 

The Artemis Program is being developed by the US in collaboration with Canada, Japan and a few European countries. NASA has already finalised that it will launch astronauts from Canada, Japan and Europe to the Moon but the lucky ones to walk on the lunar surface are yet to be decided. So far, only 12 people (all from the US) have walked on the Moon until the Apollo 17 mission which ended on December 19, 1972.

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Astronauts from the said nations will earn their Artemis tickets thanks to their contributions in developing the Gateway, a space station that will be installed around the Moon. It will also be used for habitation and research purposes similar to the International Space Station (ISS).

At the meeting, Harris said that the US will continue to work toward "strengthening our international partnerships, combining our resources, scientific capacity, and technical skill" in order to lead the lunar expedition.

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One could only hope that NASA would choose an Indian astronaut since it has already agreed to send one to the ISS in 2024. India and the US signed an agreement in June this year to send an Indian astronaut to the space station after training at a NASA facility. Notably, India is also among the 33 nations to have signed the Artemis Accords which list principles to guide space exploration cooperation among member countries.

"Our future depends on partnerships,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy in an official statement. “Together, we will strategically advance science, boost our national posture, and inspire a new generation to want to explore the cosmos,” she further said. 
 

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Published December 21st, 2023 at 16:38 IST

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