The Artemis program is one of the most ambitious projects NASA has ever taken on — and some of its most vital developments are taking place right here in Cleveland.
If all goes as planned, by 2050, humans will not only have visited the moon again, not only have established a permanent presence across the moon’s surface, but humans will also have stepped foot on Mars’ dusty floors and maybe built a somewhat permanent presence there.
But the moon, seen as a launchpad to Mars, is the first step — a 238,900-mile rest stop before continuing your 34.6
million-mile, seven-month flight.
“Not only to Mars but maybe some other planets, too,” says Michael Barrett, director of Space Flight Systems Directorate at NASA Glenn. “This is way bigger than Apollo was, both in capability and in the intention to have a sustained presence on the moon, and to use it as that stepping stone for Mars.”
Here at Cleveland’s NASA Glenn Research Center, as well as Sandusky’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility, some of the world’s most capable test facilities, manufacturing abilities and brilliant minds are being put to use to get us there. Already, the Artemis I mission, where dummy passengers orbited the moon, saw the Orion Spacecraft take flight in November 2022. NASA Glenn was instrumental in testing and even building elements like the engine for that vehicle. A main component of the Gateway (a school bus-sized capsule that will serve as the lunar space station) called “solar electric propulsion” is also being developed at NASA Glenn. This should power and propel the spacecraft for as many as 15 years. The solar rays, which make the Gateway grow to about the size of a football field, were tested in Sandusky.
The next step is a launch in November that will see humans travel farther than we’ve ever been before. In 2025, humans will return to the moon for the first time since 1972, and by 2029, the Gateway should be operational and in orbit.
In all, there are more than 3,000 scientists and technologists working on this project just in Northeast Ohio, creating almost $2 billion in economic impact every year.
“There’s only 10 NASA centers in the country,” says Barrett. “To have one in our backyard creates so many opportunities. It’s really exceptional.”
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