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These are the challenges of going back to the moon by 2024
03:15 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

It’s another step in humankind’s return to the moon, and eventually on to Mars.

As NASA seeks to return humans to the lunar surface through its Artemis program, the space agency is adding international partnerships to facilitate sustainable exploration of the moon – while demonstrating that a human mission to Mars is possible in the future.

A collaborative agreement was finalized between NASA and the European Space Agency on Tuesday, and the two agencies will work together on the Artemis Gateway lunar outpost. This is also NASA’s first formal agreement to launch international crew members to the moon during the Artemis missions, according to the agency.

The Artemis Gateway will act as a way station serving astronauts traveling from Earth before they reach the surface of the moon.

“This partnership leverages the outstanding cooperation established by the International Space Station as we push forward to the Moon,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.

“Gateway will continue to expand NASA’s cooperation with international partners like ESA, ensuring the Artemis program results in the safe and sustainable exploration of the Moon after the initial human lunar landing and beyond.”

How the Artemis program works

The Artemis program will rely on multiple assets including the Orion spacecraft, the Gateway and the Space Launch System rocket, known as SLS. One of the key features of the program is sustainable space exploration with reusable spacecraft and architecture, which could later take humans to Mars.

The SLS rocket will send Orion, astronauts and large cargo to the moon all at once, NASA said. And in the future, it could support robotic missions to Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The Orion spacecraft can carry four crew members and support deep-space missions, unlike previous craft designed for short flights.

Orion will dock at the Gateway, a lunar outpost that will go into orbit around the moon. About 250,000 miles from Earth, the Gateway will allow easier access to the entire surface of the moon and potentially deep-space exploration.

The current goal is to land the first woman and the next man near the lunar south pole by 2024, according to NASA. And it’s a goal that requires international partners. The agency anticipates that more will be added in the future.

Eight countries have signed on as founding member nations to NASA’s Artemis Accords during the 71st International Astronautical Congress held earlier in October.