Sciency Words: (proper noun) a special series here on Planet Pailly focusing on the definitions and etymologies of science or science-related terms. Today’s Sciency Word is:
By 2024, America will return to the Moon. That is the promise of NASA’s new Artemis Program. As far as I’m concerned, NASA could not have picked a better name for their next Moon mission.
In ancient mythology, Artemis was Apollo’s twin sister. So as a follow-up to the Apollo Program, Artemis is the logical choice.
And where Apollo (named for a Greek god) put the first man on the Moon, Artemis (named for a Greek goddess) promises to put the first woman on the Moon. And furthermore, Artemis has a stronger claim to the Moon anyway; she was the goddess of the Moon, after all! Apollo was the god of the Sun.
But will the Artemis mission actually happen? Honestly, I doubt it. Why? Well, I’m really, really sorry for this, but we’re going to have to talk about American politics.
Artemis is expected to cost $20 billion, minimum. That’s roughly equivalent to NASA’s entire annual budget. While that $20 billion price tag is not an immediate deal breaker (like the 90-Day Report was), it’s still an awful lot of money.
It’s up to the current administration to persuade Congress to pay for Artemis. Why is Artemis a good idea? Why does it have to happen by 2024? Based on articles like this one, it sounds like Congress is skeptical yet persuadable.
Unfortunately, the current administration seems to be sending a lot of mixed messages about Artemis. Most notably, at an event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the original Moon Landing, the current President very publically chastised his own NASA administrator for wanting to return to the Moon. It’s enough to make one wonder if Artemis is a real priority for this administration.
So I’m pretty pessimistic about the Artemis Program. I don’t think it will happen, at least not as it’s currently envisioned, and certain not on the current timetable. Don’t agree? Please tell me why I’m wrong in the comments. I would love to be wrong about this.
But whenever the United States does get around to returning to the Moon, I hope NASA keeps the Artemis name. That really is the perfect name for the next Moon mission.