Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told Newsmax on Saturday that the Artemis I mission is preparing the way for the United States to be able to go to the moon and work both in orbit and from the lunar surface for an extended period.
"[Artemis] was an initiative of the [former President Donald] Trump-[Mike] Pence administration," Bridenstine, a Trump appointee who oversaw the agency from 2018-21, said during "America Right Now" on Saturday. "It was a plan to go back to the moon. This time sustainably. In other words, we're going to stay."
Bridenstine said a coalition of both international and commercial partners are now involved in what was initially an American military project when the Apollo program went to the moon 60 years ago.
This time around, he said, the missions are meant to use the resources found on the moon to sustain an orbiting "space station" as well as possible structures on the surface to learn how to survive on another world for a long period of time in anticipation of eventually going to Mars.
"We're going to use the water ice that's very prevalent, especially on the south pole of the moon," he said. "Water ice is H2O. It's hydrogen, which is fuel. It's oxygen, which is there for us to breathe."
He said the water could also be made potable to drink, along with sunlight for solar power.
Artemis I took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Nov. 16, and is expected to reach lunar orbit by Nov. 21, according to NASA.
The primary reason for the flight, besides testing the SLS rocket, the largest man-made rocket in history, and the Orion command module that will eventually house the astronauts when the manned Artemis II mission takes off sometime next year, is to test the heat shield to protect the module and crew during its re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, according to the agency.
"The mission will end with a test of Orion's capability to return safely to Earth," the agency said on its website. "Orion will enter Earth's atmosphere traveling at about 25,000 mph. Earth's atmosphere will slow the spacecraft down to a speed of about 300 mph, producing temperatures of approximately 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and testing the heat shield's performance."
Bridenstine said the three missions, ending with the first moon landing in 60 years with the first woman and person of color, will set the stage for the future and prepare the agency to reach out further to Mars.
"This is a mission that is sustainable, and we're also learning how to live and work on another world for long periods of time because we're going to go to Mars," he said. "And if you're going to go to Mars, you're going to have to live there for a period of time. Because once you get there, you're not going to be aligned on the same side of the of the sun with the Earth, so you've got to stay for a period of almost two years before coming back."
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