An updated version of NASA's Moon-to-Mars objectives was made public on Tuesday, and it looks set to form the core of research about the solar system. These criteria in the agency's Moon to Mars exploration strategy will help define investments made by NASA, the agency's business partners, and other nations to the Moon and beyond.
NASA invited the workforce, the public, business, and the agency's international partners to provide feedback on 50 draft goals developed by agency leaders in our mission directorates earlier this year. NASA then held two workshops with business and international partners to continue the discussion.
The 63 final goals, updated as a result, point to a more advanced plan for NASA and its partners to create a roadmap for continued human presence and exploration throughout the solar system. These objectives address four main topics: operations; science; travel and human settlement; and the Moon and Mars infrastructure. To address similar themes across targets, the agency also established a set of recurring principles.
"We need a roadmap that has lasting power," said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Through a collaborative process, together with our partners, we have set a number of key objectives to achieve our exploration goals.” These goals are realistic and aspirational, and we appreciate the careful input of our employees, industry and foreign partners who will work with us to shape our shared future.
NASA aims to explore the Moon more thoroughly than ever before as part of Artemis. The agency aims to send humans back to the Moon with the Artemis I mission, currently on the launch pad, and perform a series of missions, including one to the Moon's south polar region. These missions created a permanent presence to guide future exploration of more distant places like Mars.
The Agency Cross-Directorate Federated Board, whose mission is to ensure that NASA's focus is integrated with the strategic goals and direction shared among the agency's mission directorates, joined forces with senior NASA leaders to work on the goals in November 2021.
The goals are for the exploration of the Moon and Mars, as well as possible areas of NASA cooperation. In May 2022, the public and NASA staff were granted access to the draft high-level targets and comments are invited by the end of June. More than 5.000 suggestions were made to NASA and as a result some concepts were changed and some new goals were introduced. NASA has held advisory sessions with both industry and international partners to help clarify goals, discuss and identify gaps.
"We're helping to manage humanity's global migration into deep space," said Jim Free, deputy director of the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, who oversees NASA's missions team and is ultimately responsible for the organization's architecture from the Moon to Mars. “The goals will ensure that a long-term plan for the exploration of the solar system maintains consistency of purpose and can withstand changes in finance and policy. New technologies, tools and components will be produced in the coming years. These goals are designed to be realistically achievable and help set clear direction.
Closely related to Mars mission preparation, the Artemis campaign highlights the skills and procedures needed to safely perform deep space science and exploration missions on the Moon. Artemis missions place great emphasis on science as well as important exploratory technological goals.
NASA plans to send the first humans back to the Moon with Artemis II before 2024 and to the Moon's surface before 2025, following the successful launch of Artemis I later this month. NASA will test systems and ideas for travel to and from Mars using Artemis' components.
Using the Moon as a testing ground, the subsequent Mars campaign will remain linked to the agency's continued presence on the Moon's surface.
Kurt Vogel, director of space architectures in the NASA Administrator's office, said: “Unlike previous approaches that relied on building elements and capabilities first to support the campaign, we sought to create targets that would guide subsequent missions. We can now move on to the next stages of the architectural design process, as community involvement is so rewarding.