Tag: artemis

The Full Plan For Artemis Part 3: The Moon Base And Beyond

The third and final installment of the Artemis series looks at what happens after we land on the moon again. What are the next steps and how does the Artemis program set us up for further exploration of the solar system?


Humans have always been fascinated by the moon. And why wouldn’t we be? It’s always been up there, cycling through our sky. Influencing our beliefs and superstitions, shaping our perception of time. Guiding us on our journeys.

Our fate as a species has always depended on the moon. Quite literally. If not for the stabilizing effect of the moon, it’s thought the Earth’s tilt could have swung wildly over billions of years, making the formation of advanced life impossible.

That’s how much the moon has shaped our past. We literally might not be here without it. But if NASA has their way, it could be just as important to our future.

This is the third and final installment of my series on the Artemis program. The first episode was about the early robotic missions, the second was about the planned crewed missions. Today we’re going to go beyond.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this video – the rocks and the regolith if you will – I should start by acknowledging that a lot of this is speculative. Aspirational even.

Because as I say in the previous video, so far the Artemis program is only funded through Artemis 5, which would be only the 2nd crewed moon landing, around 2028. Fingers crossed.

So as of right now, anything beyond the 2nd moon landing is kinda up in the air…
Actually, I say that… As far as I know it’s still true, but just last month, NASA ordered three more Orion capsules from Lockheed Martin for Artemis 6, 7, and 8.
So that’s pretty cool.
But still, future funding for this program will have to be decided by a future government, who will likely be dealing with an even higher level of dystopia than we are experiencing right now, so…

On the other hand, there are reasons to think it absolutely could continue, China and Russia are showing interest in their own moon bases so if that competition crops up, money could magically appear.

Also the continuing growth of private space companies could drastically reduce the price of the missions and add more opportunities around moon bases.

Especially if we are able to successfully mine and utilize resources on the moon and provide that economic incentive. More on that later.

All of this is to say that the further into the future we go, the more speculative it all becomes. The point of this video is to just kinda look at the possibilities, based on known plans but also the overall program objectives.

Artemis VI-X, what we know

So let’s pick up where we left off with Artemis 6.

If you do a search for Artemis 6, literally the only thing that comes up is a link to the wikipedia page containing a list of Artemis missions. It’s just mentioned in there, it doesn’t even have its own page.

And it’s mentioned as “Proposed”

So I can’t really talk about specific Artemis 6 plans plans because they super don’t exist yet. Or any of those proposed missions.

But in general if Artemis 1-5 were about getting boots back on the moon and establishing the Gateway, 6-10 will be about setting up a base camp. And learning how to access and use moon resources.

It’s not going to look like much at first, it’s going to be a while before we have a cool sci-fi looking moon base, but according to NASA associate administrator for human spaceflight Kathy Leuders,
“On each new trip, astronauts are going to have an increasing level of comfort with the capabilities to explore and study more of the Moon than ever before,”

Details are still sketchy but what we can discern can be found in NASA’s Lunar Surface Sustainability Concept.

The first few missions, maybe even up to Artemis 8 will have astronauts living in the lunar lander for increasingly longer periods of time, with rovers giving them wider access to the moon. I’ll get to those in a second because they’re pretty cool.

Scattered about the area of the basecamp will be various experiments, communication equipment, robotic rovers, and power modules with solar panels and whatnot.

A lot of this will be provided by the CLPS program and private partners.

Eventually the plan is to land what they’re calling the Foundation Surface Habitat, which is kinda like a space station module that stands vertically.

The design is still in the works so any images here are just concepts, some show it with a solid metal hull, some look inflatable but it’s designed to house a crew of 2-4 people for up to 60 days.

The design should feature space for crew quarters, exercise, a medical station, and storage, along with an airlock for EVAs.

This would be the home base from which the crew would work, explore, experiment, and build.

And they would get around with the use of those rovers I was talking about a second ago.

There’s two designs that NASA is working on, the first is called the Lunar Terrain Vehicle, or LTV, because acronym.

The LTV is a lot like the Apollo rover, it’s an open-air – or open space – platform with space for 2-3 astronauts with cargo.

Except like everything in the Artemis program, this is light-years beyond the Apollo rover because not just will it be able to go way further, it can also function autonomously.

Using some of what we figured out on the Mars Rovers I’m sure.

Right now NASA is soliciting designs for this rover so it’s still being pitched but it’s supposed to go up on Artemis 5, the second moon landing.

So it’ll be up there long before the Foundation Surface Habitat, in fact by the time it gets there, there might be a few of them but along with the surface habitat comes another rover – a far more advanced rover.

This one is called the Habitable Mobility Platform. The key word here is habitable, meaning astronauts can live inside of it. It’s a pressurized moon car.

The whole point of the HMP is that Astronauts can just climb inside it and go for a ride, no suiting up and all the preparation that’s involved with that.

Ideally the HMP would dock with the Foundation Surface Habitat so crew members could just climb inside the HMP, undock and start exploring.

This will greatly expand the ability for astronauts to travel around the moon, make quick excursions, or take days-long trips to distant places.

So that takes care of the base camp, again, nothing more than a habitat with rovers shuttling astronauts to and from various experiments and study sites.

But those sites and experiments will be testing out the viability of using the water resources on the moon. So a lot of what we plan for this era of Artemis depends on how those early water hunts go.

I mean in a best case scenario, a robotic mission like VIPER finds water ice, Artemis 3 lands close enough to sample it and bring it back, and Artemis 5 is able to do in situ experiments with it.

If that’s the case – and we would be incredibly lucky if that happened – you might see actually stockpiling the ice and using it for habitation or fuel production on Artemis 6.

Then 7, 8, and 9 could be increasingly longer missions, setting up the foundations for a base – maybe two missions could be simultaneous or have larger crews, and by 10 we’re actually constructing a base.

Or… Artemis 3 and 5 don’t find the water. Or they find it but can’t access it. Or they hit some other technical hurdle that we can’t think of yet.

In that case, Artemis 6 – maybe even 7 and 8 – will still be working on that problem. It might be Artemis 10 before we get to actually use the water in any way.

And honestly, by Artemis 10, we would have landed on the moon 7 times, if we still didn’t have the water and resources thing figured out, I imagine the program will be in trouble.

By that point the novelty of being on the moon will have worn off and the cost of this program will be setting in, with still no real pathway to a permanent settlement.

In other words it would kind-of follow the same pattern as Apollo. International competition notwithstanding.

So, when it comes to Artemis 6 through 10, that is one option, total failure, or we successfully learn how to access and use the moon’s water in situ and we’re laying the foundations for the moon base.

Since there’s really nowhere to go with the first option, let’s keep playing with the second option.

Artemis X and Beyond

All right, so it’s 2033 and Artemis 11 is being prepped to start a new phase in the program. A permanently inhabited moon base.

By the way, it is entirely possible that at this point there are private companies regularly flying around and even landing on the moon, but we’re here to talk about Artemis so I’m gonna stick with that.

It’s also entirely possible that the SLS could be retired at this point. Maybe Starship becomes the ride, maybe it’s something else but I feel like that whole paradigm of how the SLS is built is on the way out. But I could be wrong.

The Moonbase

I really see the moon base as just the International Space Station… sitting on the moon.

So much of what we learned in the last 20 years of the ISS will be applicable to living on a moon base. That system of running the ISS will just drag and drop onto the moon.

What that moon base will look like, and how it will be built is a wide open question.

Sticking with the ISS theme, we could see modules delivered to the surface via something like the Dynetics lander, where the modules can be removed and connected together on the surface, basically an interconnected series of canisters.
Some have suggested we could even take one of the SpaceX Starships and turn it on its side for a permanent habitat. Basically you would just tip it over, remove the fuel tanks to turn the entire ship into habitable volume, and build out the interior, then cover it up with regolith.

It’s an interesting idea. Feels a little janky to me, personally, but it’s a good reuse of existing hardware. I feel like it would require a lot of construction on site that would be a lot more challenging than some of the other ideas but… it’s an idea.

The bit about covering it with regolith though, that’s definitely an idea that’s being explored across several moon base designs.

As you probably already know, people spending a lot of time on the moon are going to be subject to a lot more radiation and cosmic rays than we’re exposed to here on Earth.

Even on the ISS, they’re underneath that protective magnetic shield that we have here on Earth, the moon inhabitants won’t have that.

We’re going to need some kind of thick barrier if we’re going to be up there for long periods, and the regolith is the best solution for that.

Some of the moon base ideas involve inflatable habitats that then get covered up with regolith, or 3D printing on top of them with a mix of regolith and some bonding agents.

ESA is actually working on this with the famous architecture firm Fosters + Partners.
In their own promotional video, they say that the dome will house four people and it will take three months to fully cover the building using autonomous robots.

The robots both scoop regolith but also print it in a design similar to a bird’s bone to ensure strength and lightweight qualities.
There’s even an idea of taking human waste and bonding it together with fungi to make essentially space poop bricks.

I mean, I guess that’s better than running a sewer line all the way back to Earth.

These methods are being tested at an ESA-built facility named LUNA that just broke ground last year.
Yet another option that might be further down the line is lava tubes.

The moon, way back in the past, had volcanic activity, this is why there are various patches of darker colored rock across the surface.

Or, “mare” as they’re called.

This volcanic activity left hundreds of lava tubes under the surface that could protect astronauts from space nasties. Might be a lot easier than 3D printing entire buildings.

Currently, in Hawaii, NASA scientists are analyzing the tubes there to see if they would work as homes.

Also the lava tubes on the moon are frickin’ huge, getting up to 3,000 feet (900m) in diameter. That’s nearly a kilometer wide.

Some of them have the same surface area as all of Dallas. Not as much barbecue though.

You have to appreciate that ancient man once took shelter in caves and thousands of years later we are back at it. Makes sense though, we’d be using them for the same reason they did back then. Easy shelter.


One other piece of infrastructure worth mentioning is a communication network around the moon, and for that, NASA is developing LunaNet.

LunaNet is described as an extensible and scalable lunar communication and navigation architecture.

With a LunaNet architecture in place, robotic landers, rovers, and astronauts on the Moon will have network access similar to networks on Earth.

It will be able to store and forward data to provide a Delay/Disruption Tolerant Network (DTN). The objective is to avoid needing to pre-schedule data communications back to Earth.

LunaNet will also offer navigation services, like a lunar GPS.
Or maybe LPS? Lunar Positioning System?

NASA tested this system in the most moon-like place they could find on Earth – Cleveland.

I’ve never been to Cleveland, I don’t know how many craters they have.

NASA’s Compass Lab at Glenn, which usually specializes in abstract spacecraft and mission design, used the lamppost infrastructure around Cleveland to kind of test what a moon network could look like.

The study found that attaching Wi-Fi routers to approximately 20,000 lampposts or other utility poles would help solve Cleveland’s connectivity issues.

By spacing routers no more than 100 yards apart, this approach would provide around 7.5 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed in a four-person home.

They’re applying this data to build a network of nodes in orbit around the moon and on the surface with 4 main objectives:

  • networking
  • navigation
  • detection and information
  • radio/optical science services.

Now, at this point I could go on and speculate about all kinds of details involving a potential moon base but ultimately, as you can see in pretty much any of NASA’s literature around Artemis, the ultimate goal is Mars.

Everything in the Artemis program is just a test bed for technologies that we can use to get to Mars, including using the moon as a refueling station.

My question is would it still be the Artemis program at that point? Like would Mars missions be like Artemis 30 or something? It would probably be a whole new program I imagine.

What I could see happening is NASA handing off moon industry to private companies and then focusing its efforts on a new program to Mars, kinda like they’ve handed off low Earth orbit to private companies now.

NASA kinda forges the new path and then private industries follow.

Especially if moon mining matures into a profitable industry, I think we’ll see a new gold rush to the moon. I did a whole video on that a while back.

And I still think it would be really cool if people and supplies could be launched from the Moon to Mars using an electromagnetic lunar mass driver.

The moon orbits the earth at 2288 miles per hour, so you’ve already got that speed working for you – a railgun could propel cargo up to speeds that you just can’t reach here on Earth because of our atmosphere, and then you could launch using only a fraction of the fuel you’d need to travel direct from Earth.

Once the infrastructure is in place to get parts to the moon and manufacture it there, which might be less energy intensive because of the 1/6 gravity… I don’t know, there’s something interesting there.

Anyway, I think we’ve reached the end of what can be called the Artemis program at this point.

How much of this will actually happen? Who knows. Like I said at the beginning, a lot of it comes down to whether or not we’re able to access and use the water ice, what kind of international competition we have, and the overall economics of the thing.

There are also questions about the sustainability of a moon presence, I mean, yes there’s a lot of water ice there but it is a finite amount. And humans gonna human.

There’s also the concern that all the landings and activity could form a dust cloud around the moon because that stuff just doesn’t behave the same up there as it does here.

But this thing does seem to be happening. And that’s exciting. I’m recording this video ahead of time but it’s scheduled to go out the same day as the new Artemis 1 launch window. On the 14th. We’ll see how that goes. I did the same thing with the last Artemis video so… yeah.

So you’re either watching this right now all pumped full of adrenaline and excited to see this future that’s happening right in front of us. Or you’re laughing at me. Again.

But I’ll just say what I’ve always said about space travel, it pushes our boundaries as a species and the spinoff technologies that are created from it benefit us here on Earth in a myriad ways.


Could SpaceX Beat Artemis To The Moon? (And Other Questions)

From the mystery of what cars birds poop on to an update on the Dear Moon mission, these are the burning questions from Patreon this month.


Hey today we’ve got a lightning round video, which is where I take questions from Patreon supporters above a certain level, that level being $50 a month.

Yeah, I know, that’s insane but those insane people are the ones who help keep this channel going, so I want to make them glad they made this insane decision.

And the whole “get a question answered” thing is one of their perks. But there are other perks at much lower levels, like interacting with me in live streams and zoom calls, and access to a private Discord server, this has now become a shameless Patreon ad…

Anyway, sometimes in these lightning round videos I get asked a question and the answer goes to a place I really wasn’t expecting… And today definitely had one of those. Actually 2.

So I encourage you to stick around to the end because it does kind-of spark a debate that I would really love to know your thoughts on. Anyway, let’s start this thing.

Brian Beswick
The first images from Webb are a big deal, but we also heard something big too. What’s your thoughts on the new FRB discovered?
So Brian sent me to this Space.com page where somewhere in this sea of ads is an article about a weird new FRB that was discovered last month.

FRBs are Fast Radio Bursts and they’ve been kind-of a mystery for a while now, I think the first one was discovered in 2009, and they’re basically extremely short, like millisecond-long but can release as much energy in a millisecond as the sun does in 3 days.

And the spooky part? Nobody knows what causes them!

The most likely candidates are pulsars or magnetars but it’s still not completely settled.


What’s interesting about this new one is instead of the burst happening in milliseconds, this one is 3 seconds long, so like thousands of times longer.

And it also happens in regular intervals so they’re saying it’s kind-of like a universal heartbeat.

So poetic.

They named it FRB20191221A and what’s cool about it is they think it could help shed some light on what these things are but it s regularity could be used to help measure the expansion of the universe.

By the way, the instrument that detected it is called CHIME, which stands for Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment. Love me some acronym porn.

Are you planning on doing a speaking tour?

I was actually just talking to someone about that the other day. It’s being talked about. Nothing concrete but… Yeah. Maybe.

John Regel
Have you ever been recognized in public outside of Creator-specific venues? If so, would you mind sharing an anecdote about it from your perspective?

It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens enough for me to always be aware that someone might recognize me, so I try to be on my best behavior.

The most recent one that really surprised me was when I was in Ireland, I got recognized in Galway, and I’m sorry his name dropped out of my head but that was a nice surprise.

For anybody who bumped into me out in the world, I guarantee I walked away from that encounter second-guessing everything I said.

What’s even weirder is when people see me and they don’t say hi but then they send a tweet at me like, “I saw you at the mall today.” (shiver)

But feel free to say hi if you see me, it’s always nice to meet viewers in person because this is so impersonal.

What do you think about YouTube thumbnails that are intentionally designed to make you “rage watch” the video? Example: The Empire Was Right in Star Wars.

I hate them. And I hate even more that they work.

“Rageonomics” is a term I’ve heard lately.

I don’t think anybody wants this to be a platform where people have to resort to that to get people to watch their videos. But here we are.

Robin Tennant Colburn
A friend told me that someone at a local scientific institution told her birds poop on blue cars more than any other because “that is the color of water, and birds tend to drop their and their offspring’s poop over water.” I started searching the internet for corroboration but I keep seeing the number one “pooped upon” car color is red. Is there a truth out there? Or is it really maybe just random?

RobIn always brings the weirdest questions. And I love it, because weird is fun. But I also kinda hate it, because they’re really hard to answer.

So Robin, love ya… But hate ya.

So I found this article from a site called the Charm City Circulator, which I can only assume is out of Baltimore, but it’s all about car repair and maintenance, but anyway, according to this article, a study was actually done on this in the UK by an auto parts company called Halfords.

They looked at over 1100 cars in five cities and found that red cars got it the worst at 18%, blue cars at 14%, black cars at 11%, white at 7%, gray or silver got 3% and green only 1%.

Now, they don’t provide a link to this study, so I don’t know exactly what their methodology was, like did they count individual droppings or was it just by car? Like did a car with 5 turds count the same as a car with 1 turd?

Actually the percentages only add up to 54 so I’m guessing they looked at 1100 cars, and of the cars that had turds on them, these were the colors.

But there’s still a lot I can’t know like what locations did they pick because different socioeconomic areas are going to favor different types of car, some of which are more popular in certain colors…

I feel like I’d want to see an experiment where they take 5 different colored cars and park them under a balcony, or around a tree and see if one consistently gets more than the others.

Like this is one of those studies that could be done in a million different ways and could lead to a million different conclusions.

In fact, the British Trust for Ornithology pushed back against the study saying, “We do know that birds can be attracted to certain colors during display but droppings on cars is probably more to do with where you park; if you park where birds roost, then you are going to get more droppings on your vehicle.”

So there you go guys, scientists have proven that if you park where birds poop, you’re more likely to get pooped on. (The More You Know jingle)

The article goes on to say that birds might poop on red cars because they think it’s food, because it’s the color of blood, so they’re drawn to red cars and therefore poop on them more.

Another theory is that red is a mating color, so birds might seek out that color to use to attract mates. And one theory even suggested that clean cars get pooped on more often because the bird sees their reflection and it scares them enough to poop.

“Females would poop because they thought they saw a male they could mate with. But they’d defecate out of frustration when they realized they couldn’t mate since what they thought was an actual bird was only their reflection.”

I mean who hasn’t been so frustrated with the dating scene that they physically shit themselves?

I don’t know, I think this might be one of those things like the claim that red cars get more speeding tickets, therefore if you drive a red car, you’re more likely to get pulled over?

And people look for all these reasons why that happens, everything from profiling to the color red messes with the cops’ radar guns…

When what it really comes down to is red is a popular color for sports cars. And people who drive sports cars tend to drive faster… Because that’s what they’re made for. Hence, more speeding tickets.

I imagine this is something like that, maybe red cars are more popular in places that have more pigeons, or I don’t know, park under trees more or something like that.

Assuming that this was even a real legit study, it was done by a company that sells car wash accessories. So take from that what you will.
And I saw a butt-ton of articles that referenced this study from back in 2012, it looks like it was first reported in the Daily Mail and even they don’t have a source linked so I can’t find the actual study to save my life. If any of you can find it, feel free to share in the comments.

So yeah, there’s a chance this whole study could turn out to just be one of those internet things where someone says a thing and then it gets passed around and eventually becomes common knowledge.

If Zoe chews shoes, whose shoes does she choose?

She wasn’t picky. Thankfully she doesn’t really do that anymore.

John Regel
How many Lowe’s could Rob Lowe rob if Rob Lowe could rob Lowe’s?

Okay, what happened on Patreon this month?


Cole Parker
What’s the update on Dear moon and would you think about applying to go yourself and do a few Answers with Joe in orbit around the moon!

Well they closed down submissions a while back and I did think about applying – and chose not to.

There really hasn’t been a lot announced, especially this year, but if you haven’t been following it since the first announcement, here’s some of the broad strokes…
It was first announced in 2018, it was the brainchild of Yusaku Maezawa and the original idea was he was going to invite 8-12 artists and entrepreneurs to fly around the moon on the SpaceX Starship so that they can share that experience with the world.

Actually, it was originally going to be on a Crew Dragon in 2018, but it would have required going up on the Falcon Heavy, and it hadn’t been crew rated yet. Eventually SpaceX decided not to crew rate the Falcon Heavy and focus on Starship.

So he upgraded the plan for Starship and set it for 2023.

In March of last year, Maezawa announced that he was going to open up 8 seats to the general public and encouraged people to apply with videos detailing why they wanted to go. Apparently they got over a million entries from all over the world.

They did close down applications later on last year and haven’t really made any announcements other than to say that they have narrowed down the finalists and are doing medical checks and testing qualifications and stuff.

And it hasn’t been publicly announced, but there are rumors that the crew has been picked… But I don’t know who those people are.

The only name that’s been floated around is filmmaker Damien Chazelle, he shot the movie First Man with Ryan Gosling and apparently in an interview Maezawa invited him to join if he wanted.

To my knowledge he hasn’t accepted. But they’re being super secretive around it so who knows.

Asking if I would ever want to do something like that… I mean… I’m probably not American Hero material but no, I’m not gonna be first in line to do something like that.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely a dream of mine to go to space someday and I hope space tourism becomes so commonplace that it becomes like taking a cruise or something, I would totally be up for something like that, but no… I’m not gonna be one of the pioneers.

I’ll just talk about it on my channel.

As for timelines and how realistic they are, it’s still being planned for 2023 from what I can tell but since SpaceX still hasn’t gotten it to space yet… Consider me super doubtful.

Now something I keep saying ad nauseum is that I think it’s going to be a while before they’ll be flying people on a Starship that involves propulsive landing, especially if the landing involves catching it in the chopsticks.

It’s just such a brand new thing that’s never been tried before (riff)

I know this is a private flight so it’s outside of NASA’s authority but I don’t know if they still have to be approved by the FAA… I’ll confess to ignorance on that.

So I think it’s more likely to get pushed to 2024 at least but if it does, that brings up a really interesting debate… Who’s gonna get there first? Dear Moon or Artemis II?

Because Artemis II is scheduled to go up in 2024, and it’s going to have almost the exact same flight plan.

Just sit with that for a second… if SpaceX sends a dozen artists and poets and dancers around the moon in a fully reusable ship BEFORE NASA can send 4 highly trained astronauts in a single-use ship that costs $2.2 billion… (shrug) I mean, I don’t think we’ll ever see SLS again.

BUT… And this is a big butt (sir mix-a-lot flash) that’s only if SpaceX can develop the Starship fast enough. Because as of the day this video goes out… assuming everything goes to plan… NASA will be ahead. Their vehicle will have gotten into space.

Of course, SpaceX could be right behind them, they might be doing their first orbital test in a month or two, so… Yeah. 2024 could be really interesting.

I’m curious to hear who you’d bet on in the comments but yeah… I guess we’ll have to wait and see.



The Full Plan For Artemis Part II: Back To The Moon

With the upcoming launch of Artemis I, NASA is officially on the way back to the moon for the first time in 50 years. Recently I posted the first of 3 videos designed to cover the entire Artemis program. The last video focused on the uncrewed missions, today we’re looking at the human missions, the ones that will finally put boots on the moon again.


So last month I kicked off this series on the Artemis program by talking about the robotic and uncrewed missions that will do some research and set the stage for the next generation of humans to walk on the moon.

Today, we’re going to talk about those humans.

All right, so we’ve sent the robots, we’ve conducted the tests, we’ve stockpiled supplies and instruments through the CLPS program, now it’s time to send living, breathing, pooping humans back to the surface.

By the way, if you haven’t seen my previous video on those robotic missions, I’ll put a link on screen or down in the description – I encourage you to check that out because… well… that’s how I make money.


But those robotic missions are interesting and it also establishes why we’re going back and the water resources that are going to make going back and staying back possible.

So if we’re going to return humans to the moon, we’ve got to talk about how they’re going to get there, and for Artemis, that’s the Orion capsule.


A lot of attention has been paid over the last several years to the next generation of crewed vehicles designed to send astronauts to the ISS. This is a job NASA handed off to private companies as part of their Commercial Crew program.

So we’ve heard a lot about the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Boeing Starliner, and the Sierra Space Dream Chaser… Only one of which has actually flown people to the ISS.

But at the same time, NASA has been developing the Orion capsule, designed to handle the rigors of deep space outside of low Earth orbit and the magnetic shield.

And that’s really what sets this one apart from the others, it is specifically designed for deep space travel.

The obvious comparison that you want to jump to with Orion is to compare it to the Apollo command module, but they’re different in some significant ways.

First and most obvious, Orion is bigger, built to carry 4 passengers as opposed to 3 for Apollo.
Orion crew capsule dimensions
16.5 ft wide
316 ft^3
Capacity six astronauts but likely
13 ft wide
219 ft^3
Capacity three

But just as obvious, the technology in Orion is like a million times what Apollo was.

You always hear that you have way more computer power in your phone than the Apollo module had, well Orion has the power of… 2 phones. Progress.

I’m kidding, I’m sure it has far more than that but the point is the navigation, guidance, and communications systems are top of the line tech and far beyond what Apollo had.

It also has a brand new toilet on board. Because enter joke here.

There’s also a bunch of storage behind the seats and in the event of a solar storm, there is extra shielding back there so they can take shelter.

It’s being built by Lockheed Martin, so just like Boeing has the Starliner, Lockheed has Orion. And it’s designed to support the crew for up to 21 days without docking.
And it comes with this massive launch abort system that covers the entire capsule and jettisons away after it leaves the atmosphere, with four larger motors in cast they need to abort closer to the pad.

Assuming they’ll still be allowed to abort in Florida.

European Service Module

Attached to Orion is the European Service Module, which you could compare that to the service module on Apollo except this is obviously being built by the European Space Agency.

This thing is loaded with engines, 33 engines total including the main engine which will push it out to lunar orbit, auxiliary thrusters, and reaction control thrusters.

All of which will make this a very stable, precise vehicle. Which is what you want from something that will be docking a lot.

This will carry the power and propulsion systems and “consumables” like air and water for the crew.

One other thing it will have that the Apollo service module didn’t is solar panels.

The ESM will have four solar array wings that NASA says will generate enough power to run two 3-bedroom houses.

Together, this is the system that will ferry astronauts back and forth from low Earth orbit to Lunar orbit.
If you recall in my video on the Space Task Group plans for NASA post-Apollo, you might recall they advocated for something like this, basically a ferry that can move people and cargo back and forth between space stations and lunar bases.

Except theirs was based on the nuclear NERVA engine, which is featured in For All Mankind.

How to make a Space Launch System. Start with a Space Transportation System.
Remove the Orbiter. Detatch the engines and apply them to the bottom of the external fuel tank. Throw in one more engine just for good measure.
Then, top the fuel tank with a second Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), and stack the Orion Capsule and European Service Module, or any moon-bound payload on top of that.
And presto!
Congratulations. You’ve made a SLUSS!

Easy peasy!
Except actually difficult pifficult.

SLS looks like a cross between a Saturn V and the Space Shuttle, which seems like it would simplify everything, because we’ve done all that before, but this is many ways an entirely new rocket, which is why it’s been in development since 2011. It’s been 11 years and it’s just now ready to go up.

And there have been delays this year too. It was supposed to launch in June but back in April they rolled it out on the launchpad for a wet dress rehearsal and found a faulty helium valve that needed to be replaced.

And look, it would be very easy to start getting ranty right now about the entirety of the SLS program, it definitely has its issues and there’s plenty of content out there for that. I will skip that here, just check out the comments if you really want to go down that road. Because it’s already started.

But in an attempt to be more positive, I’ll just say that’s what testing is for. That’s the point of wet dress rehearsals, to find the issues and take care of them. And that’s what they’re doing.

To be fair this is not a small rocket, in fact, it is currently the biggest, most powerful rocket in the world.
It tops out at 322 feet tall on the landing pad, which is just a little bit taller than the Statue of Liberty. Slightly shorter than a Saturn V, but at 8.8 million pounds of thrust, it’s 15% more powerful. And it’ll carry five tons more cargo than the Space Shuttle. Not too shabby.
These are powered by those four Shuttle proven RS-25 engines and those two magnificent solid rocket boosters that I just can’t wait to see back in action.


Luckily you and I both won’t have to wait too long to see it because as of this recording, Artemis 1 is scheduled to launch on August 29th. T-0 is set for 8:33am from Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, with extra opportunities on Sept. 2nd and 5th.

Artemis 1, also called Exploration Mission 1 or EM-1 will be an uncrewed test of the SLS, Orion and… well, everything. The plan is to go into Earth’s orbit, then fire a translunar injection burn out toward the moon. Once at the moon, it will do a little loop-de-loop that will actually go further out into space than any human-rated vehicle has ever gone (280,000 miles) before coming back to Earth.

Once back in Earth’s orbit, the Orion capsule will separate from the service module and re-enter the atmosphere, splashing down in the ocean.

Altogether the Artemis I Mission will last about 3 weeks and will test all the new propulsion, guidance and communications systems.

Along the way, Orion will drop off 13 cube sats that will run a variety of deep space experiments including one where they test the effect of deep space radiation on yeast and scanning the moon’s surface for water ice and other resources.

But maybe one of the most important tests for Artemis I is just seeing if we can do this again. This is the first time a human-rated craft has visited the moon in 50 years. 49 years and 9 months, specifically.

Artemis is a massive program involving 3,200 suppliers and contractors from every state in the country, including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Jacobs, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman – because that’s how these things get funded. And yes, there’s plenty of debate around whether this model still makes any sense.


Artemis II is basically the Apollo 8 moment of the Artemis program. It’ll do basically the same thing as Artemis 1 without the moon loop de loop but with four astronauts on board.

And just like Apollo 8, they will have the experience of coming around the moon and seeing the Earth in its entirety in the distance. They’ll be the first human beings to see that in 50 years.

And maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll livestream that moment so we can all experience it with them, which is something we’ve never been able to do before.

I feel like I’m saying that a lot but I think a lot of people kinda blow off Artemis because we’ve already been to the moon before, but there are a LOT of firsts taking place in this program. And I think that’s worth mentioning.

Artemis II is scheduled to launch in 2024 from a slightly evolved SLS rocket that will be able to lift 45 metric tons, so it’ll be bigger and badder than before.

It’ll be a 10 day mission during which the crew will test out all the systems including system performance, crew interfaces, guidance and navigation systems, and that fancy new toilet I talked about.

They will also do something different from Apollo missions in that they will rely on the Deep Space Network to communicate as opposed to the Earth satellite networks, so they will be testing that as well.
The DSN consists of three facilities spaced equidistant from each other – approximately 120 degrees apart in longitude – around the world. And this is how NASA keeps track of solar system probes, Mars rovers, the Voyagers, that kind of thing.

But I think this it’s interesting that they’ll be using this network designed for deep space missions for a human flight. I think this is the first time they’ve ever done that, which is really cool.

You could imagine someday school children on Mars will be learning about the first time humans communicated over the Deep Space Network that they use every day.

And the names of those astronauts will be… We don’t know yet. They haven’t been picked, but there have been 18 astronauts chosen for the Artemis team. It’s a diverse group of equal parts men and women, reflecting the agency’s goal of putting the first woman and person of color on the moon.

So assuming Artemis II goes off without a hitch, now it’s time to land. There’s just one thing to do first.

I talked in the last video about the Lunar Gateway, and it’s funky rectilinear halo orbit, well the first couple of modules are scheduled to go up in November of 2024 on a Falcon Heavy, so maybe right after Artemis II.

Another module called I-HAB will be added later (2026), more on that in a minute.

Because once that’s ready to go, it’s time to put some boots on the regolith. Of course… you need something to get you to that regolith… So… I guess we need to talk about the Human Landing System.


It’s a very simple nomenclature, this Artemis program. The Space Launch System launches people into space. The Human Landing System… lands humans.

So again… this could be and has been its own video a million times over, feel free to browse around, there are a million hot takes out there, but the short version is… it’s a lunar version of the SpaceX Starship.
NASA opened up the Human Landing System to private industry, and it came down to three proposals, SpaceX with the Starship variant, a company called Dynetics, and Blue Origin’s National Team, which included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.

And in April of 2021, to pretty much everybody’ shock, NASA chose SpaceX. And then Blue Origin sued NASA and it got ugly and stupid.

But I say shock because… I mean look at this thing.

But maybe not a shock because it’s the only option that was fully reusable. All the others left a landing stage behind when they ascend like the Apollo lander, and you can only do that so many times before the landing stages start to pile up.

We haven’t seen any official renderings of the interior but we do know that the crew space will be WAY up at the top.
Yeah the plan seems to be that they’re going to engineer a crane like this to get crew and cargo down to the ground, which sounds insane to me, especially considering how abrasive lunar dust is. I have honest concerns about the longevity of this solution.

You know another reason NASA may have chosen this is because SpaceX has already shown they can do human rated flight with the Crew Dragon. In fact, this kinda looks like a hybrid of the Starship and Crew Dragon.

They’ve also shown that they can land rockets pretty well. So yeah, maybe not so shocking.

Now it should be mentioned, the choice NASA made was which company they were going to contract to build this thing, so they are helping to fund the Starship Lander. The other two companies can still revise their plans and then lobby NASA to use their lander, which they seem to be doing.

But yeah, it’s a huge lander, and it looks especially insane next to the Gateway. I mean… Why even have it?
But this version of Starship is not designed to ever come back to Earth so there’s no heat shielding on it, it is a deep space vessel.

And we don’t know exactly when they’ll have it done but it’d better be by 2025 because that, at long last, is when we land on the moon again, on Artemis III.


So if Artemis II is this generation’s Apollo 8, Artemis III would be Apollo 11. The math checks out.

So we’re doing in 3 steps what Apollo took 11 steps to do. That’s progress.
Artemis III will take off on the SLS with a crew of four, and after a few orbits will head out to the moon where the Gateway and Lander will be waiting for them. They’ll dock Orion with the Gateway and do a few orbits before 2 of the astronauts move over into the Lunar Lander, and then on the next swing by the moon, they drop down to the surface and land.

These two astronauts will spend about a week on the moon, performing experiments and testing out all the systems while looking for water ice in nearby craters. All the while the other two will be doing the same from orbit in the Gateway.

So like the command module pilot from Apollo except they get to have a buddy.

Anyway, after the mission objectives are complete, the lander will launch back up to dock with Gateway, the crew will transfer cargo and themselves back into Orion, and then head back to Earth for a splashdown.

Along the way, I’m sure that we are going to see some great live events from the Moon which is wild to think about.

The first moon landing was shown in grainy detail on a black and white CRTV to streaming 4k on Twitch.

So Artemis III will be a technology demonstration and celebration of American ingenuity. A very big deal will be made for this.

But just like Apollo 11 wasn’t the end of the Apollo program, Artemis III is just the beginning for Artemis.


Next up will be Artemis IV, which actually won’t land on the moon, it will be a crewed mission to deliver the I-HAB module to the Gateway and spend some time on that, testing out human habitation in deep space.

It will also go up on a bigger, beefier SLS Block 1B that will replace the ICPS second stage with a larger Exploration Upper Stage.

The mission objectives are still being solidified but this is currently scheduled for launch in 2027, followed by Artemis V in 2028.


Artemis V will go back to the surface of the moon, and it’ll be a similar flight profile as Artemis III, with two astronauts going down to the surface and two stay up in the Gateway.

They are bringing with them another module for the Gateway called the ESPIRIT module and the advanced Canadarm.

They’ll also be bringing a new unpressurized moon rover to cover more ground on the moon and will likely spend more time than Artemis III.


So that brings us to 2028 – assuming things stick to plan – and we will have landed on the moon twice with a total of 4 astronauts. And this… is all that’s been funded.  Things get kinda murky after this.

If you go to the Wikipedia page, there are proposed missions going up through Artemis X roughly in 2032, but right now NASA has only been funded through Artemis V. So what does that mean for the future of the Artemis Program?

The answer depends on a lot of things, not least of which what the economic and political landscape looks like in 8 years, both of which are super stable these days.

Also as many are already saying in the comments, if SpaceX really nails the Starship platform, I think you can say goodbye to the SLS, it’s just a no-brainer.

Though I’ve said it once and I’ll keep saying it, I think it’ll be a very long time before Starship is human rated, especially for landing.

Also who knows, the private space industry is changing super fast, maybe another company steps up and provides a different more affordable solution

A lot of the future of Artemis also relies on whether or not they’re successful at finding water ice in those craters. After all that’s kind-of the whole point is to find resources that can sustain a long-term base on the moon and exploration beyond.

And I have to say as I was researching this, I was kinda surprised how much the “beyond” part gets hyped in NASA’s Artemis discussions. They really do see it as the first step to Mars.
I mean, I found this page where they kinda explain the Artemis logo and what all the elements mean and they reference the words “Mars” and “Beyond” almost as much as they do the moon. Even that red swoosh that completes the letter A is colored red – for Mars.

NASA has totally framed Artemis as the just the first step toward human exploration of the solar system. And I’m not gonna lie… I like it.

I feel like so much press has been given to Elon and his Mars ambitions, we don’t hear as much about the fact that NASA’s got very similar ambitions, just through a moon infrastructure.

There are still some hurdles, one worth mentioning is the next generation moon suits.

I’ll point you to a video from Real Engineering that breaks it down really well but the original Apollo suits really didn’t hold up very well against the lunar regolith. And the longest any of them were on the moon was 22 hours on Apollo 17.

With no water or wind to break it down, lunar dust is basically a bunch of microscopic shards of glass. And these new suits need to hold up to that for years at a time.

Not to mention provide more freedom of movement and longer time for moonwalks that will be needed for the construction and maintenance of a moon base.

And yeah, there have been some major stumbles on the new suits, some are concerned it’s going to throw the schedule way out of whack.

So I do expect delays, there will be some bumps in the road. But I have a reason to believe NASA will pull it off.

Two words. Pissing. Contest.

China’s space program has been making huge progress with their Tiangong space station and Chang’e lunar program.

So far they’ve launched 7 successful missions to the moon, including orbiters, landers, and rovers and have shown interest in landing humans there and establishing a habitable base on the South Pole.

In fact, in 2021, they announced a partnership with Russia to build a moon base they’re calling the International Lunar Research Station.

So yeah… they see an opportunity to position themselves as the true superpower in the world. To say that sure the US was able to do great things 50 years ago but now we’ve got the advantage. And the moon is the ultimate high ground.

And I don’t see the US just letting that happen. That’s the kind of thing that makes dollars flow toward NASA.

So my bet is, even though Artemis is only funded through the Artemis 5 mission, we’ll see more funding in the future as that rivalry heats up. It’s starting to look like Artemis could be fueled by the same forces that fueled Apollo.

And if that is the case, what happens next? What is this “beyond” NASA keeps referring to with Artemis? That’s the subject of the next video in this series.

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