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What Is the Artemis Program? (Grades 5-8)

This article is for students grades 5-8.

Artemis is NASA’s new lunar exploration program, which includes sending the first woman and first person of color on the Moon. Through the Artemis missions, NASA will use new technology to study the Moon in new and better ways, and prepare for human missions to Mars.

sls orion em-1 block 1 night launch pad

Why Is This Program Called Artemis?

The first missions to take astronauts to the Moon were called the Apollo Program. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to land astronauts on the Moon by the end of the decade. NASA met that challenge with the Apollo program, landing the first man on the Moon on July 20, 1969. That program was named after a god of Greek mythology, Apollo.
Artemis was Apollo’s twin sister and the goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology. When they land, Artemis astronauts will stand where no human has ever stood: the Moon’s South Pole.

What Spacecraft Will Be Used for the Artemis Program?

NASA’s new rocket is the Space Launch System (SLS). It is the most powerful rocket ever in the world. SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft with up to four astronauts riding aboard to lunar orbit. Then, astronauts will dock Orion at a small spaceship called the Gateway. This is where astronauts will prepare for missions to the Moon and beyond. The crew will take trips from the Gateway to the lunar surface in a new human landing system, and then return to the Gateway. When their work is finished, the crew will return to Earth aboard Orion.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building before rolling out to Launch Complex 39B for the first time, Wednesday, March 16, 2022

When Will Artemis Go to the Moon?

Before Apollo put the first human on the Moon, the first Apollo missions launched to test the rocket and equipment. Before Artemis carries a crew to the Moon, NASA will test the rocket and spacecraft in flight then send a crew for a test flight:

  • Artemis 1 completed a test flight of the SLS rocket with the Orion spacecraft with no crew on Nov. 16, 2022.
  • Artemis 2 will fly SLS and Orion with a crew past the Moon, then circle it and return to Earth. This trip will be the farthest any human has gone into space.
  • Artemis 3 will send a crew with the first woman and the next man to land on the Moon.

What Will Artemis Astronauts Do on the Moon?

The Artemis 3 crew will visit the Moon’s South Pole. No one has ever been there. At the Moon, astronauts will:

  • Search for the Moon’s water and use it.
  • Study the Moon to discover its mysteries.
  • Learn how to live and work on the surface of another celestial body where astronauts are just three days from home.
  • Test the technologies we need before sending astronauts on missions to Mars, which can take up to three years roundtrip.
Animated Artemis identity with the Earth and Moon
Artemis will light our way to Mars. The new Artemis identity draws bold inspiration from the Apollo program and forges its own path, showing how it will pursue lunar exploration like never before and pave the way to Mars.
Credits: NASA

Why Is the Artemis Program Important?

The Moon is a good place to learn new science. When astronauts study new places on the lunar surface, NASA will learn more about the Moon, Earth and even the Sun. The Moon is a “test bed” for Mars. A test bed is a place to prove that a technology or idea will work. The Moon is a place to demonstrate that astronauts will one day be able to work away from Earth on Mars for long periods of time.
The first missions to the Moon required NASA to develop new technology. Many of those technologies have been made into items people use on Earth in their everyday lives. NASA is working with businesses and companies to create new technology for Artemis missions. Making new technology helps businesses grow and create more jobs on Earth. Other nations will work with NASA as partners. Just as partners work together on the International Space Station, they will work on Artemis to bring the world together for a mission to Earth’s nearest neighbor in space.

More About Artemis
Puzzle Book
Poster: SLS: Meet the Rocket
Pencil and Paper Puzzles: Orion Activities and Coloring Sheets For Kids
Video: Rocket Science in 60 Seconds: What Is the Space Launch System?
Video: We Are Going
Article: What Is the Space Launch System?
Article: What Is Orion?
Article: What Was the Apollo Program?
Article: What Is the International Space Station?

Read What Is the Artemis Program? (Grades K-4)