People will be living on the moon “certainly in this decade,” a leader in NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program said on Sunday as the agency’s unmanned test flight continued its mission there.
Howard Hu, who oversees the Orion space capsule perched atop the Artemis 1 rocket that launched last week, made the confident assertion on the BBC show “Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.”
“We’re going to be sending people down to the surface, and they’re going to be living on that surface and doing science,” Hu confirmed after surprising Kuenssberg with the seven-year timeline.
Hu said NASA moon-dwellers will have habitats and a “fancy rover they’re going to drive around.” But “it’s more than living – it’s really about science.”
He said the mission will be to get to the moon’s south pole because it’s theorized there could be ice there. Water from that ice could be converted into “a potential fuel for our propulsion systems,” he said, possibly turning the moon into a springboard for deeper space exploration.
And that’s not the only reason he said the discovery of ice would be “huge”: “If there are organisms that are embedded in that ice and things like that, could we be able to discover something new?”
The Artemis program aims to put humans on the moon for the first time since 1972’s Apollo 17 mission. The ultimate goal is to establish a “long-term presence” on the moon and work toward a trip to Mars, according to the program’s website.
The program took a major step forward with last week’s launch of the Artemis 1 rocket, which had been delayed by technical difficulties since August. The unmanned test flight is set to be followed by a crewed flyby on Artemis 2 and a crewed landing on Artemis 3.
In the Artemis 1 commander seat is a test dummy, or manikin, nicknamed “Moonikin Campos,” collecting data on the flight’s impact on the human body, Hu said.