Back to the moon

Space: not just for billionaires, anymore. Or at least that’s what NASA hopes to prove when it launches the most powerful rocket it has ever built today.

Why it matters: The mission, dubbed Artemis I, is the first step to returning people to the moon, a goal NASA hopes to achieve by 2025.

  • The program is high stakes: it’s expected to cost almost US$100 billion in total and crewed missions always come with risk (see: every movie about space ever made), but success could kick start a new era of space exploration for the agency.

The launch today will send an uncrewed space capsule on a 42-day journey around the moon and back to Earth, a test to make sure everything is working smoothly before putting astronauts on board.

  • If all goes well, NASA will launch another orbital flight in 2024, this time with four astronauts (including a Canadian) aboard. That will be followed by a mission in 2025 that will land two astronauts on the moon. 
  • The agency plans to send people to the moon every year thereafter, and eventually build a permanent settlement.

Zoom out: While the program is costly, NASA hopes that Artemis will have positive spin-off effects that make it worthwhile, like sparking technological innovation needed for longer flights to Mars and jump-starting businesses involved in transporting goods to and from the moon.