The Artemis Program: A multi billion dollar pipe dream

By: Reed Morris

Once again, we find ourselves revisiting an old topic. Much like my James Webb articles, this covers space exploration. The difference between the two is the successfulness. 

The Artemis Program is NASA’s newest project, hoping to get humans back on the moon. Conceived in 2010, the Artemis Program had a lot of support and dreamers behind it. It was initially scheduled for its first test flight in 2017, but here we are in 2022 with still no launch. The failures of Artemis and its SLS launch system have created an environment of high costs, short budgets, and many sad space fans like me. 

Where we run into problems

There are multiple issues with NASA’s current dream for lunar inhabitants. First off, we’ll have to cover the issues that are seen on paper. The rocket is NOT cheap. The SLS is a new launch system that is supposed to be able to carry the crew and supplies needed to start a lunar surface base, and a lunar orbital station. While it IS capable of such feats, flying it comes at a sizable cost. It runs off of several RS-25 rocket engines, which cost nearly 150 million dollars to make, for a SINGLE USE engine, in a time when private companies have cheaper multi-use engines. While the SLS is one of the heaviest lifting rockets in existence, its 4.1 billion dollar-per-launch price tag is something that cannot be ignored. 

The aforementioned 150 million dollar engines – Image taken from:¯_ツ_-¯/

The second and more severe problem is that Artemis 1 has been delayed over and over again due to malfunctions in the SLS’s overpriced engines. On August 29th, 2022, the Artemis 1 launch was supposed to take place. Before it was sent into space, leaks sprung up in the hydrogen fuel lines. Additionally, sensores stated that one of the four main engines was not cold enough to support fuel injection for launch. These problems were non-ignorable, delaying the launch for another week. When the problem was deemed fixed, it was set to launch once again on September 3rd. Surprise, surprise, it never left the launch pad. 

Similarly to the first failed launch, a hydrogen leak occurred, but this time it was much larger and much more dangerous. Cold liquid hydrogen is relatively stable, but when liquid hydrogen begins to mix with warm Florida air, it becomes gaseous, and VERY dangerous. This explosive hazard was deemed non-ignorable once again and the launch was postponed “to a later date”. 

That “later date” has been announced! Just recently, NASA announced that the new launch date for Artemis 1 is November 14th, 2022.

Hope for the future

While the Artemis program is over budget, riddled with problems, and yet to actually start, there is still hope. After dumping more than 23 billion dollars into a project, there is little chance that NASA will scrap the project. Even if there are more issues on the 14th, there will always be hope for future endeavors.

This can’t be promised, and can’t be stated as a fact, but I will anyway. Man will make it back to the moon whether it’s in the next several years, or the next several decades, the younger generations WILL see humans return to the moon. 

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