NASA wants to return astronauts to the moon. The project aims to visit a new area of the moon and retrieve new samples with the first woman and first person of color behind the sun visors.
Whether this plan will succeed or not is a matter of debate. There are stark differences between Artemis and Apollo. Artemis is not the same as the one that launched Cernan and his predecessors. Apollo was conceived and executed as a monument to American ingenuity and the power of capitalism, whereas the sister program is more a reflection of American politics and the power of inertia.
The program is only three years old, but elements of Artemis have been in the works for a long time. Many ancillary projects existed before the Trump administration gave the program a name. The first launch was delayed due to two hurricanes.
Artemis serves very different groups. It is simply a way back to the moon for some space enthusiasts. It's a path to Mars for some people. When the space shuttle retired in 2011, some people saw Artemis as a way to regain American superiority in space. The first time humans looked at the moon and wondered what it was, it was the beginning of a new era of scientific discovery.
A test flight called Artemis 1 thundered to space in the middle of the night in November. It was carried into space by a rocket. The SLS is 15 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty and has an orange main tank and white boosters that make it look like the space shuttle. Space exploration fans and scientists were excited to go back to the moon after several missed deadlines and criticism from Congress.
The main goal of NASA's human spaceflight program has always been the rocket, not the moon missions it will carry. The location of that rocket has always been secondary. There is a chance that the entire moon program will fail if SLS is deemed too expensive or unsustainable. The effort to return humans to the moon for the first time in 50 years is wobbly and uncertain.
The skies over Texas appeared to show a daytime meteor shower. The bright objects were pieces of the space shuttle Columbia, which broke apart when it reentered Earth's atmosphere. Bush began work on a new way forward for NASA as the nation mourned the seven crew members of the shuttle.
Artemis is related to that effort. In January 2004, less than a year after the Columbia disaster, Bush announced a vision for space exploration that called for retiring the shuttle by 2011. A new rocket, called Ares, would be used to launch to the moon or even to Mars.