13 locations have been identified by the US space agency as potential sites for humanity to establish long-term lunar presence
NASA has identified 13 possible landing sites on the Moon as the space agency gears up for its Artemis mission, which aims to put US astronauts back on the Earth’s satellite by 2025.
The zones are located near the lunar South Pole, according to the agency’s statement released on Friday.
“These regions are one step closer to bringing humans back to the Moon, for the first-time since Apollo.,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for the Artemis Campaign Development Division, referring to the agency’s 1972 mission, which marked the last time humans set foot on the Moon.
Kirasich noted that when NASA lands on the Moon as part of Artemis program, “it will be unlike any mission that’s come before” because astronauts would find themselves in the dark and previously unexplored areas and would “You are laying the foundations for your long-term future stays.”
These potential landing areas, which measure approximately 15×15 kilometers each, lie within six degrees from the lunar South Pole. Jacob Bleacher is the chief exploration scientist for NASA Headquarters. Each region can have at least 10 landing locations.
According to NASA, when selecting these zones, scientists and engineers relied on troves of data collected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the agency’s unmanned spacecraft that is now circling the Moon, as well as decades of other lunar science findings. Many factors were considered, such as launch windows availability, safety of landing and terrain slope. Communication with Earth was also an important consideration.
The agency stated that all 13 locations provide sunlight for a period of 6.5 days, which is the duration of the Artemis III surface missions. Sunlight is crucial for prolonged stays on the Moon because it acts as both a source of power and helps to reduce temperature fluctuations.
NASA will use SpaceX Starship to fly a crewed mission to the Moon. It is expected to launch its first orbital mission in the latter part of this year.