The Chinese space program is moving ahead at a sensational pace and some feel it will catch up to NASA by 2045. This in turn has brought a sense of urgency to the US lunar exploration program. There are discussions about China’s plans for creating a Lunar base with Russia’s support. This puts the US authorities in a fix as they feel obliged to have an answer to the advances of their peers.
All of this rings many bells for us – after all, it was the USA-Russia space race that accelerated America’s moon landing in the 60s. It’s been more than 50 years since then and the exhilaration around the Artemis 1 program is quite understandable. But while we are focused on the US-China space race and domination over lunar resources, a lot of important details remain hidden in the shadows.
The Artemis 1 which is also called the ‘Mega Moon Rocket’ is not poised for a moon landing. It will orbit the moon and venture as close as 33 kilometres off the lunar surface. The space shuttle is uncrewed – it carries three dummies and a snoopy toy. The goal is to observe the effects of solar radiation, and pressure on the dummies. This will help NASA scientists to develop better space suits for real astronauts.
These observations aside, there is another major experiment poised to take place onboard the Artemis 1. The shuttle is supposed to carry seeds as NASA is trying to grow Space-Crops for the first time. The development of the seeds under the challenges brought by extreme space is likely to pave the way for solving one of the most glaring issues related to space exploration and the idea of human settlement out of the Earth.
The survival of astronauts in space depends on the nutritional resources supplied from the Earth – whether the space crop builds a bridge in this regard remains to be seen. This experiment could also prove central to the preservation of flora that is being wiped out of Earth by climate change and global warming.
There is more at stake than the petty war of space supremacy and the Artemis 1 can change the course of lunar exploration forever without even landing on the moon.