Category: artemis

Today is Small Business Saturday, which the U.S. Small Business
Administration (SBA) recognizes as a day to celebrate and support small
businesses and all they do for their communities.



We are proud to partner with small
businesses across the country through NASA’s Small
Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer
(STTR) program
s, which have
funded the research, development and demonstration of innovative space technologies
since 1982. This year, we’ve awarded 571
SBIR/STTR contracts totaling
nearly $180 million to companies who will support our future exploration:

  • Techshot, Inc. was selected to bioprint micro-organs in a
    zero-gravity environment
    for research and testing of organs-on-chip devices, which simulate
    the physiological functions of body organs at a miniature scale for health
    research without the need for expensive tests or live subjects.
  • CertainTech, Inc., with the George Washington University, will
    demonstrate an improved water recovery system for restoring nontoxic water from
    wastewater using nanotechnology.
  • Electrochem, Inc. was contracted to create a compact and lightweight regenerative fuel cell system that can store energy from
    an electrolyzer during the lunar day to be used for operations during
    the lunar night.



Small businesses are also developing
technologies for the Artemis missions to the Moon and for human and robotic
exploration of Mars. As we prepare to land the first woman and next man on the
Moon by 2024, these are just a few of the small businesses working with us to
make it happen.

Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery

Masten Space Systems, Astrobotic and Tyvak
Nano-Satellite Systems
are three NASA SBIR/STTR alumni now eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar
surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts. Other small
businesses selected as CLPS providers include Ceres Robotics, Deep Space
, Intuitive Machines, Moon Express, and Orbit Beyond. Under the Artemis program, these
companies could land robotic missions on the Moon to perform science
experiments, test technologies and demonstrate capabilities to help the
human exploration that will follow. The first delivery could be as early
as July 2021.


A Pathfinder CubeSat

One cornerstone of our return to the
Moon is a small spaceship called Gateway that
will orbit our nearest neighbor to provide more access to the lunar
surface. SBIR/STTR alum Advanced Space
will develop a CubeSat that
will test out the lunar orbit planned for Gateway, demonstrating how to enter
into and operate in the unique orbit. The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning
System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) could launch as early
as December 2020.


Point for Moon to Mars

We selected 14
as part of our Tipping
Point solicitation
, which fosters the development of critical, industry-led
space capabilities for our future missions. These small businesses all proposed
unique technologies that could benefit the Artemis program.

Many of these small businesses are also
NASA SBIR/STTR alumni whose Tipping Point awards are related to their SBIR or
STTR awards. For example, Infinity Fuel
Cell and Hydrogen, Inc.
(Infinity Fuel) will develop a power and energy
product that could be used for lunar rovers, surface equipment, and habitats.
This technology stems from a new type of fuel cell that Infinity Fuel developed
with the help of NASA SBIR/STTR awards.

and Astrobotic are also small businesses whose Tipping Point award can
be traced back to technology developed through the NASA SBIR/STTR program. CU
Aerospace will build a CubeSat with two different propulsion systems, which
will offer high performance at a low cost, and Astrobotic will develop small
rover “scouts” that can host payloads and interface with landers on the lunar


Businesses, Big Impact

This is just a handful of the small
businesses supporting our journey back to the Moon and on to Mars, and just a taste
of how they impact the economy and American innovation. We are grateful for the
contributions that small businesses make—though they be but “small,” they are

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Launched less than four months after Apollo 11 put the first astronauts on the Moon, Apollo 12 was more than a simple encore. After being struck by lightning on launch – to no lasting damage, fortunately – Apollo 12 headed for a rendezvous with a spacecraft that was already on the Moon. The mission would expand the techniques used to explore the Moon and show the coordination between robotic and human exploration, both of which continue today as we get return to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024

Launch Day


Apollo 12 lifted off at 11:22 a.m. EST, Nov. 14, 1969, from our Kennedy Space Center. Aboard the Apollo 12 spacecraft were astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., commander; Richard F. Gordon Jr., command module pilot; and Alan L. Bean, lunar module pilot.

Barely 40 seconds after liftoff, lightning struck the spacecraft. Conrad alerted Houston that the crew had lost telemetry and other data from the mission computers. As the Saturn V engines continued to push the capsule to orbit, ground controllers worked out a solution, restarting some electrical systems, and Apollo 12 headed toward the Moon.


Cameras at the Kennedy Space Center captured this image of the same lightning bolt that struck Apollo 12 striking the mobile platform used for the launch.

On the Moon

Apollo 12 landed on the Moon on Nov. 19, and on the second moonwalk Conrad and Bean walked approximately 200 yards to the Surveyor 3 spacecraft. One of seven Surveyor spacecraft sent to land on the Moon and to gather data on the best way to land humans there, Surveyor 3 had been on the Moon for more than two years, exposed to cosmic radiation and the vacuum of space. Scientists on the ground wanted to recover parts of the spacecraft to see what effects the environment had had on it.


Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad examines the Surveyor 3 spacecraft before removing its camera and other pieces for return to Earth. In the background is the lunar module that landed Conrad and lunar module pilot Alan Bean on the Moon.



Apollo 12 splashed down on Nov. 24. When Artemis returns astronauts to the Moon in 2024, it will be building on Apollo 12 as much as any of the other missions. Just as Apollo 12 had to maneuver off the standard “free return” trajectory to reach its landing site near Surveyor, Artemis missions will take advantage of the Gateway to visit a variety of lunar locations. The complementary work of Surveyor and Apollo – a robotic mission preparing the way for a crewed mission; that crewed mission going back to the robotic mission to learn more from it – prefigures how Artemis will take advantage of commercial lunar landers and other programs to make lunar exploration sustainable over the long term.

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Space is a global frontier. That’s why we partner with nations all around the world to further the advancement of science and to push the boundaries of human exploration. With international collaboration, we have sent space telescopes to observe distant galaxies, established a sustainable, orbiting laboratory 254 miles above our planet’s surface and more! As we look forward to the next giant leaps in space exploration with our Artemis lunar exploration program, we will continue to go forth with international partnerships!

Teamwork makes the dream work. Here are a few of our notable collaborations:

Artemis Program


Our Artemis lunar exploration program will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. Using innovative technologies and international partnerships, we will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and establish sustainable missions by 2028.

During these missions, the Orion spacecraft will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The European Service Module, provided by the European Space Agency, will serve as the spacecraft’s powerhouse and supply it with electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air and water in space.


The Gateway, a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon, will be a home base for astronauts to maintain frequent and sustainable crewed missions to the lunar surface. With the help of a coalition of nations, this new spaceship will be assembled in space and built within the next decade.

Gateway already has far-reaching international support, with 14 space agencies agreeing on its importance in expanding humanity’s presence on the Moon, Mars and deeper into the solar system.

International Space Station


The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted. Launched in 1998 and involving the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and the participating countries of the European Space Agency — the ISS has been the epitome of global cooperation for the benefit of humankind. The largest space station ever constructed, the orbital laboratory continues to bring together international flight crews, globally distributed launches, operations, training, engineering and the world’s scientific research community.

Hubble Space Telescope 


The Hubble Space Telescope, one of our greatest windows into worlds light-years away, was built with contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA).


ESA provided the original Faint Object Camera and solar panels, and continues to provide science operations support for the telescope. 

Deep Space Network


The Deep Space Network (DSN) is an international array of giant radio antennas that span the world, with stations in the United States, Australia and Spain. The three facilities are equidistant approximately one-third of the way around the world from one another – to permit constant communication with spacecraft as our planet rotates. The network supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and a few that orbit Earth. It also provides radar and radio astronomy observations that improve our understanding of the solar system and the larger universe!

Mars Missions 

Information gathered today by robots on Mars will help get humans to the Red Planet in the not-too-distant future. Many of our Martian rovers – both past, present and future – are the products of a coalition of science teams distributed around the globe. Here are a few notable ones:

Curiosity Mars Rover 

  • France: ChemCam, the rover’s laser instrument that can analyze rocks from more than 20 feet away
  • Russia: DAN, which looks for subsurface water and water locked in minerals
  • Spain: REMS, the rover’s weather station

InSight Mars Lander

  • France with contributions from Switzerland: SEIS, the first seismometer on the surface of another planet
  • Germany: HP3, the heatflow probe that will help us understand the interior structure of Mars
  • Spain: APSS, the lander’s weather station

Mars 2020 Rover

  • Norway: RIMFAX, a ground-penetrating radar
  • France: SuperCam, the laser instrument for remote science
  • Spain: MEDA, the rover’s weather station

Space-Analog Astronaut Training

We partner with space agencies around the globe on space-analog missions. Analog missions are field tests in locations that have physical similarities to the extreme space environments. They take astronauts to space-like environments to prepare as international teams for near-term and future exploration to asteroids, Mars and the Moon.


The European Space Agency hosts the Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills (CAVES) mission. The two week training prepares multicultural teams of astronauts to work safely and effectively in an environment where safety is critical. The mission is designed to foster skills such as communication, problem solving, decision-making and team dynamics.


We host our own analog mission, underwater! The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project sends international teams of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius, for up to three weeks. Here, “aquanauts” as we call them, simulate living on a spacecraft and test spacewalk techniques for future space missions in hostile environments.

International Astronautical Congress 

So, whether we’re collaborating as a science team around the globe, or shoulder-to-shoulder on a spacewalk, we are committed to working together with international partners for the benefit of all humanity! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how the global space industry works together, check out our coverage of the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) happening this week in Washington, D.C. IAC is a yearly gathering in which all space players meet to talk about the advancements and progress in exploration.

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It will take incredible power to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon’s South Pole by 2024.  That’s where America’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket comes in to play.

Providing more payload mass, volume capability and energy to speed missions through deep space than any other rocket, our SLS rocket, along with our lunar Gateway and Orion spacecraft, creates the backbone for our deep space exploration and Artemis lunar mission goals.

Here’s why our SLS rocket is a deep space rocket like no other:

It’s a heavy lifter

The Artemis missions will send humans 280,000 miles away from Earth. That’s 1,000 times farther into space than the International Space Station. To accomplish that mega feat, you need a rocket that’s designed to lift — and lift heavy. With help from a dynamic core stage — the largest stage we have ever built — the 5.75-million-pound SLS rocket can propel itself off the Earth. This includes the 57,000 pounds of cargo that will go to the Moon. To accomplish this, SLS will produce 15% more thrust at launch and during ascent than the Saturn V did for the Apollo Program.

We have the power 

Where do our rocket’s lift and thrust capabilities come from? If you take a peek under our powerful rocket’s hood, so to speak, you’ll find a core stage with four RS-25 engines that produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust alongside two solid rocket boosters that each provide another 3.6 million pounds of thrust power. It’s a bold design. Together, they provide an incredible 8.8 million pounds of thrust to power the Artemis missions off the Earth. The engines and boosters are modified heritage hardware from the Space Shuttle Program, ensuring high performance and reliability to drive our deep space missions.

A rocket with style

While our rocket’s core stage design will remain basically the same for each of the Artemis missions, the SLS rocket’s upper stage evolves to open new possibilities for payloads and even robotic scientific missions to worlds farther away than the Moon like Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. For the first three Artemis missions, our SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage with one RL10 engine to send Orion to the lunar south pole. For Artemis missions following the initial 2024 Moon landing, our SLS rocket will have an exploration upper stage with bigger fuel tanks and four RL10 engines so that Orion, up to four astronauts and larger cargoes can be sent to the Moon, too. Additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions for a sustained presence in deep space.

It’s just the beginning

Crews at our Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are in the final phases of assembling the core stage for Artemis I— and are already working on assembly for Artemis II.

Through the Artemis program, we aim not just to return humans to the Moon, but to create a sustainable presence there as well. While there, astronauts will learn to use the Moon’s natural resources and harness our newfound knowledge to prepare for the horizon goal: humans on Mars.

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Since the 19th century, women have been making strides in areas like coding, computing, programming and space travel, despite the challenges they have faced. Sally Ride joined NASA in 1983 and five years later she became the first female American astronaut. Ride’s accomplishments paved the way for the dozens of other women who became astronauts, and the hundreds of thousands more who pursued careers in science and technology. Just last week, we celebrated our very first #AllWomanSpacewalk with astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir.

Here are just a couple of examples of pioneers who brought us to where we are today:

The Conquest of the Sound Barrier


Pearl Young was hired in 1922 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA’s predecessor organization, to work at its Langley site in support in instrumentation, as one of the first women hired by the new agency. Women were also involved with the NACA at the Muroc site in California (now Armstrong Flight Research Center) to support flight research on advanced, high-speed aircraft. These women worked on the X-1 project, which became the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound. 

Young was the first woman hired as a technical employee and the second female physicist working for the federal government.

The Human Computers of Langley


The NACA hired five women in 1935 to form its first “computer pool”, because they were hardworking, “meticulous” and inexpensive. After the United States entered World War II, the NACA began actively recruiting similar types to meet the workload. These women did all the mathematical calculations – by hand – that desktop and mainframe computers do today.

Computers played a role in major projects ranging from World War II aircraft testing to transonic and supersonic flight research and the early space program. Women working as computers at Langley found that the job offered both challenges and opportunities. With limited options for promotion, computers had to prove that women could successfully do the work and then seek out their own opportunities for advancement.

Revolutionizing X-ray Astronomy


Marjorie Townsend was blazing trails from a very young age. She started college at age 15 and became the first woman to earn an engineering degree from the George Washington University when she graduated in 1951. At NASA, she became the first female spacecraft project manager, overseeing the development and 1970 launch of the UHURU satellite. The first satellite dedicated to x-ray astronomy, UHURU detected, surveyed and mapped celestial X-ray sources and gamma-ray emissions.

Women of Apollo

NASA’s mission to land a human on the Moon for the very first time took hundreds of thousands workers. These are some of the stories of the women who made our recent #Apollo50th anniversary possible:


Margaret Hamilton led a NASA team of software engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and helped develop the flight software for NASA’s Apollo missions. She also coined the term “software engineering.” Her team’s groundbreaking work was perfect; there were no software glitches or bugs during the crewed Apollo missions. 

JoAnn Morgan was the only woman working in Mission Control when the Apollo 11 mission launched. She later accomplished many NASA “firsts” for women:  NASA winner of a Sloan Fellowship, division chief, senior executive at the Kennedy Space Center and director of Safety and Mission Assurance at the agency.

Judy Sullivan, was the first female engineer in the agency’s Spacecraft Operations organization, was the lead engineer for health and safety for Apollo 11, and the only woman helping Neil Armstrong suit up for flight.

Hidden Figures

Author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book – and subsequent movie – Hidden Figures, highlighted African-American women who provided instrumental support to the Apollo program, all behind the scenes.


• An alumna of the Langley computing pool, Mary Jackson was hired as the agency’s first African-American female engineer in 1958. She specialized in boundary layer effects on aerospace vehicles at supersonic speeds. 

• An extraordinarily gifted student, Katherine Johnson skipped several grades and attended high school at age 13 on the campus of a historically black college. Johnson calculated trajectories, launch windows and emergency backup return paths for many flights, including Apollo 11.

Christine Darden served as a “computress” for eight years until she approached her supervisor to ask why men, with the same educational background as her (a master of science in applied mathematics), were being hired as engineers. Impressed by her skills, her supervisor transferred her to the engineering section, where she was one of few female aerospace engineers at NASA Langley during that time.

Lovelace’s Woman in Space Program


Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb was the among dozens of women recruited in 1960 by Dr. William Randolph “Randy” Lovelace II to undergo the same physical testing regimen used to help select NASA’s first astronauts as part of his privately funded Woman in Space Program.

Ultimately, thirteen women passed the same physical examinations that the Lovelace Foundation had developed for NASA’s astronaut selection process. They were: Jerrie Cobb, Myrtle “K” Cagle, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich, Wally Funk, Jean Hixson, Irene Leverton, Sarah Gorelick, Jane B. Hart, Rhea Hurrle, Jerri Sloan, Gene Nora Stumbough, and Bernice Trimble Steadman. Though they were never officially affiliated with NASA, the media gave these women the unofficial nicknames “Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees” and the “Mercury Thirteen.”

The First Woman on the Moon


The early space program inspired a generation of scientists and engineers. Now, as we embark on our Artemis program to return humanity to the lunar surface by 2024, we have the opportunity to inspire a whole new generation. The prospect of sending the first woman to the Moon is an opportunity to influence the next age of women explorers and achievers.

This material was adapted from a paper written by Shanessa Jackson (Stellar Solutions, Inc.), Dr. Patricia Knezek (NASA), Mrs. Denise Silimon-Hill (Stellar Solutions), and Ms. Alexandra Cross (Stellar Solutions) and submitted to the 2019 International Astronautical Congress (IAC). For more information about IAC and how you can get involved, click here.

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Zoom to the Moon! Astronauts will blast off to the Moon in the Orion spacecraft with NASA’s Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket ever built. Help #AstronautSnoopy launch into deep space, farther than any human or bird has ever gone before.


More than 45 years since humans last set foot on the lunar surface, we’re going back to the Moon and getting ready for Mars. The Artemis program will send the first woman and next man to walk on the surface of the Moon by 2024, establish sustainable lunar exploration and pave the way for future missions deeper into the solar system.

Getting There


Our powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft a quarter million miles from Earth to lunar orbit. The spacecraft is designed to support astronauts traveling hundreds of thousands of miles from home, where getting back to Earth takes days rather hours.

Lunar Outpost


Astronauts will dock Orion at our new lunar outpost that will orbit the Moon called the Gateway. This small spaceship will serve as a temporary home and office for astronauts in orbit between missions to the surface of the Moon. It will provide us and our partners access to the entire surface of the Moon, including places we’ve never been before like the lunar South Pole. Even before our first trip to Mars, astronauts will use the Gateway to train for life far away from Earth, and we will use it to practice moving a spaceship in different orbits in deep space.

Expeditions to the Moon


The crew will board a human landing system docked to the Gateway to take expeditions down to the surface of the Moon. We have proposed using a three-stage landing system, with a transfer vehicle to take crew to low-lunar orbit, a descent element to land safely on the surface, and an ascent element to take them back to the Gateway. 

Return to Earth


Astronauts will ultimately return to Earth aboard the Orion spacecraft. Orion will enter the Earth’s atmosphere traveling at 25,000 miles per hour, will slow to 300 mph, then parachutes will deploy to slow the spacecraft to approximately 20 mph before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

Red Planet 


We will establish sustainable lunar exploration within the next decade, and from there, we will prepare for our next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars!

Discover more about our plans to go to the Moon and on to Mars:

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On this day 50 years ago, human beings embarked on a journey to set foot on another world for the very first time


At 9:32 a.m. EDT, millions watched as Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, flying high on the most powerful rocket ever built: the mighty Saturn V.


As we prepare to return humans to the lunar surface with our Artemis program, we’re planning to make history again with a similarly unprecedented rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS will be our first exploration-class vehicle since the Saturn V took American astronauts to the Moon a decade ago. With its superior lift capability, the SLS will expand our reach into the solar system, allowing astronauts aboard our Orion spacecraft to explore multiple, deep-space destinations including near-Earth asteroids, the Moon and ultimately Mars.


So, how does the Saturn V measure up half a century later? Let’s take a look.

Mission Profiles: From Apollo to Artemis 

Saturn V


Every human who has ever stepped foot on the Moon made it there on a Saturn V rocket. The Saturn rockets were the driving force behind our Apollo program that was designed to land humans on the Moon and return them safely back to Earth.


Developed at our Marshall Space Flight Center in the 1960s, the Saturn V rocket (V for the Roman numeral “5”)  launched for the first time uncrewed during the Apollo 4 mission on November 9, 1967. One year later, it lifted off for its first crewed mission during Apollo 8. On this mission, astronauts orbited the Moon but did not land. Then, on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was the first Saturn V flight to land astronauts on the Moon. In total, this powerful rocket completed 13 successful missions, landing humans on the lunar surface six times before lifting off for the last time in 1973.

Space Launch System (SLS) 


Just as the Saturn V was the rocket of the Apollo generation, the Space Launch System will be the driving force behind a new era of spaceflight: the Artemis generation.


During our Artemis missions, SLS will take humanity farther than ever before. It is the vehicle that will return our astronauts to the Moon by 2024, transporting the first woman and the next man to a destination never before explored – the lunar South Pole. Over time, the rocket will evolve into increasingly more powerful configurations to provide the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit to deep space destinations, including Mars.

SLS will take flight for the first time during Artemis 1 where it will travel 280,000 miles from Earth – farther into deep space than any spacecraft built for humans has ever ventured.

Size: From Big to BIGGER 

Saturn V


The Saturn V was big. 

In fact, the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center is one of the largest buildings in the world by volume and was built specifically for assembling the massive rocket. At a height of 363 feet, the Saturn V rocket was about the size of a 36-story building and 60 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty!

Space Launch System (SLS)


Measured at just 41 feet shy of the Saturn V, the initial SLS rocket will stand at a height of 322 feet. Because this rocket will evolve into heavier lift capacities to facilitate crew and cargo missions beyond Earth’s orbit, its size will evolve as well. When the SLS reaches its maximum lift capability, it will stand at a height of 384 feet, making it the tallest rocket in the world.

Power: Turning Up the Heat 

Saturn V

For the 1960s, the Saturn V rocket was a beast – to say the least.

Fully fueled for liftoff, the Saturn V weighed 6.2 million pounds and generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust at launch. That is more power than 85 Hoover Dams! This thrust came from five F-1 engines that made up the rocket’s first stage. With this lift capability, the Saturn V had the ability to send 130 tons (about 10 school buses) into low-Earth orbit and about 50 tons (about 4 school buses) to the Moon.

Space Launch System (SLS)


Photo of SLS rocket booster test

Unlike the Saturn V, our SLS rocket will evolve over time into increasingly more powerful versions of itself to accommodate missions to the Moon and then beyond to Mars.


The first SLS vehicle, called Block 1, will weigh 5.75 million pounds and produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust at time of launch. That’s 15 percent more than the Saturn V produced during liftoff! It will also send more than 26 tons  beyond the Moon. Powered by a pair of five-segment boosters and four RS-25 engines, the rocket will reach the period of greatest atmospheric force within 90 seconds!


Following Block 1, the SLS will evolve five more times to reach its final stage, Block 2 Cargo. At this stage, the rocket will provide 11.9 million pounds of thrust and will be the workhorse vehicle for sending cargo to the Moon, Mars and other deep space destinations. SLS Block 2 will be designed to lift more than 45 tons to deep space. With its unprecedented power and capabilities, SLS is the only rocket that can send our Orion spacecraft, astronauts and large cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

Build: How the Rockets Stack Up

Saturn V


The Saturn V was designed as a multi-stage system rocket, with three core stages. When one system ran out of fuel, it separated from the spacecraft and the next stage took over. The first stage, which was the most powerful, lifted the rocket off of Earth’s surface to an altitude of 68 kilometers (42 miles). This took only 2 minutes and 47 seconds! The first stage separated, allowing the second stage to fire and carry the rest of the stack almost into orbit. The third stage placed the Apollo spacecraft and service module into Earth orbit and pushed it toward the Moon. After the first two stages separated, they fell into the ocean for recovery. The third stage either stayed in space or crashed into the Moon.

Space Launch System (SLS)

Much like the Saturn V, our Space Launch System is also a multi-stage rocket. Its three stages (the solid rocket boosters, core stage and upper stage) will each take turns thrusting the spacecraft on its trajectory and separating after each individual stage has exhausted its fuel. In later, more powerful versions of the SLS, the third stage will carry both the Orion crew module and a deep space habitat module.

A New Era of Space Exploration 

Just as the Saturn V and Apollo era signified a new age of exploration and technological advancements, the Space Launch System and Artemis missions will bring the United States into a new age of space travel and scientific discovery.

Join us in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and hear about our future plans to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars by tuning in to a special two-hour live NASA Television broadcast at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, July 19. Watch the program at

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With the help of the NASA History Office, we’ve identified some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the first time humans walked on the surface of another world. Read on and click here to check out our previous Apollo FAQs. 

How many moon rocks
did the Apollo crews bring back? What did we learn?


The six crews that landed on the Moon brought back 842
pounds (382 kilograms) of rocks, sand and dust from the lunar surface. Each
time, they were transferred to Johnson Space Center’s Lunar Receiving Laboratory, a
building that also housed the astronauts during their three weeks of
quarantine. Today the building now houses other science divisions, but the lunar samples are
preserved in the Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory.

Built in 1979, the laboratory is the chief repository of the
Apollo samples.


From these pieces of the Moon we learned that its chemical makeup
is similar to that of Earth’s, with some differences. Studying the samples has yielded clues to the origins of the solar system. In March of 2019, we announced that three cases of pristine Moon samples will be unsealed for the first time in 50 years so that we can take advantage of the improved technology that exists today! 

Did you know you might not have to travel far to see a piece of the Moon up close? Visit our Find a Moon Rock page to find out where you
can visit a piece of the Moon.

What did Apollo astronauts
eat on their way to the Moon?


Astronaut food has come a long way since the days of Project
Mercury, our first human spaceflight program that ran from 1958-1963. Back then, astronauts “enjoyed” food in cube form or squeezed out of tubes.

Early astronaut food menus were designed less for flavor and more for nutritional value, but that eventually shifted as technology evolved.

Astronauts today can enjoy whole foods like apples, pizza and even tacos. 

Apollo crews were the first to have hot water, making it easier
to rehydrate their foods and improve its taste. They were also the first to use a “spoon bowl,” a plastic container that was somewhat like eating out
of a Ziploc bag with a spoon. Here’s an example of a day’s menu for a voyage to the Moon:

Breakfast: bacon squares, strawberry cubes and an orange

Lunch: beef and potatoes, applesauce and a brownie.

Dinner: salmon salad, chicken and rice, sugar cookie cubes
and a pineapple grapefruit drink.

What did Michael Collins do while he orbited the Moon, alone in the Command Module?


As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin worked on the lunar surface, Command Module pilot Michael Collins orbited the Moon, alone, for the next 21.5 hours. On board he ran systems checks, made surface observations and communicated with Mission Control when there wasn’t a communications blackout. Blackouts happened every time Collins went behind the Moon. In 2009, Collins wrote this in response to a flurry of media questions about the 40th anniversary of the mission:

Q. Circling the lonely Moon by yourself, the loneliest person in the universe, weren’t you lonely?

A. No. Far from feeling lonely or abandoned, I feel very much a part of what is taking place on the lunar surface. I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have. This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two.”

What will Artemis astronauts bring back when they land on the Moon?


Artemis missions to the Moon will mark humanity’s first permanent presence on another world. The first woman and the next man to explore the lunar surface will land where nobody has ever attempted to land before – on the Moon’s south pole where there are billions of tons of water ice that can be used for oxygen and fuel.

We don’t know yet what astronauts will bring back from this unexplored territory, but we do know that they will return with hope and inspiration for the next generation of explorers: the Artemis generation.

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The first six missions to the Moon helped us answer questions about our nearest celestial neighbor, but a curious public wanted to know more about how we did it. With the help of the NASA History Office, we’ve identified some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the first time humans walked on the surface of another world. Read on and click here to check out our post from last week and the week before. 

Why do some shadows on the Moon appear to be inconsistent with the lighting?


For Apollo astronauts, the Sun wasn’t the sole source of light. The high reflectivity of the lunar surface or “albedo” means that the Moon’s many craters, hills and rocks bounce sunlight to wash out the stars multiple shadows on objects. The highly uneven terrain means that shadows can have slightly different lengths, as well. For example, two astronauts standing several feet away from each other can have different shadow lengths because one may be on a slope.


While the Lunar Module itself was also reflective, Apollo astronauts had yet another bright source of light: Earth! To a moonwalker, a half-full Earth would be about 20 times brighter than a full Moon as seen from our home planet. This also explains why stars are not visible in pictures. Think about it: if you wanted to photograph all the stars that can be seen from Earth, would you want to do it during a full Moon? 

Why are there no blast craters under the Lunar Modules? 


The Moon has endured billions of years of bombardment from micrometeorites and large meteorites, compacting the dust into extremely dense rock. A thin layer of fine and powdery moondust covers the ground, but the dense rock beneath this layer makes it hard to penetrate the surface.

That, paired with an engine thrusting in a vacuum means that the exhaust would expand rapidly outward instead of straight down like it would on Earth. The large engine nozzle. Still, many pictures clearly show dust markings radiating from the landing site. 

Can Humans Really Survive Passing Through the Van Allen Radiation Belts?


The short answer is yes, but with protection. The Van Allen radiation belts, named after their discoverer James van Allen, are regions high above Earth’s surface that trap highly charged particles that radiate off the Sun. This energetic region contains harmful radiation that would be lethal to anybody who encountered them unprotected.

Thankfully, the 12 astronauts that passed through the belts did so relatively quickly in the comfort of their shielded spacecraft that had been tested to withstand high doses of radiation. Although all six crews had to pass through the Van Allen belts, the dosimeters indicated that they received a dosage no higher than that of a chest X-ray or a single CAT scan. 

Why are we going back to the Moon?


Exploring the Moon is only the first part in our mission to expand humanity’s presence on Mars and beyond. The Moon is the ideal stepping stone for testing technology that will enable us to expand humanity’s presence on Mars and beyond. Click here to learn more about the Artemis program that will take humans to the lunar surface within five years – this time, to stay.

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