The Artemis project will send human explorers to the Moon by 2024. A main objective for the lunar mission will be to train for a second launch: one that will bring astronauts to Mars. But there will be plenty of science to conduct on the lunar surface, too.

Nujoud Fahoum Merancy

In a live Tech Briefs presentation titled Artemis: Back to the Moon, a reader had the following question for Nujoud Fahoum Merancy, Chief of the Exploration Mission Planning Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas.

"Are there other objectives for specifically lunar operations besides preparing and training for Mars mission?"

Read the NASA expert's edited response below.

Nujoud Fahoum Merancy: I characterize most of NASA's exploration into three real objectives. First, you have the science. If we go to the south pole, there's a ton of science that we have yet to do on the Moon, science that hasn't been done. The surface area of the Moon is the size of the continent of Africa. If we'd only put 12 humans and 6 missions on the continent of Africa, no one would say we'd explored it. We're at the same place on the Moon. There's still tons to explore on the Moon, tons of science to do and understand.

The second objective is really the economic benefit. As we push the technology, essentially, we're developing technologies, we're increasing their capability — the efficiency of solar arrays, for example — which feeds back to benefits on Earth. It's not always a direct line of "this leads to that," but missions like Apollo pushed the computer system and microchips, for example.

The third objective is the commercial aspect. As we build out systems, low-Earth orbit is truly a commercial enterprise at this point. It helps the economy; there's lot that's done there that no one would have ever dreamed of during Apollo. The same type of thing is expected to happen in the future with the Moon. While we're talking about the technology to go to Mars, there's really the science, the technologies, and the commercialization and capability of the lunar programs as well.

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