Shown here is a rendering of candidate landing regions for Artemis III. Each region is approximately 9.3 by 9.3 miles (15 by 15 kilometers). A landing site is a location within those regions with an approximate 328-foot (100-meter) radius.
Photo courtesy of NASA
Aug. 19 (UPI) -- NASA on Friday identified landing sites near the moon's southern pole for Artemis III -- the United States' first manned mission to the lunar surface in more than 50 years.
NASA identified 13 regions for an Artemis III lunar landing:
- Faustini Rim A
- Peak Near Shackleton
- Connecting Ridge
- Connecting Ridge Extension
- de Gerlache Rim 1
- de Gerlache Rim 2
- de Gerlache-Kocher Massif
- Malapert Massif
- Leibnitz Beta Plateau
- Nobile Rim 1
- Nobile Rim 2
- Amundsen Rim
"Selecting these regions means we are one giant leap closer to returning humans to the Moon for the first time since Apollo," NASA's Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for the Artemis Campaign Development Division, said in a statement.
"When we do, it will be unlike any mission that's come before as astronauts venture into dark areas previously unexplored by humans and lay the groundwork for future long-term stays," Kirasich said.
Artemis III is scheduled to carry American astronauts to the moon sometime in 2025. Artemis I, a planning and testing mission that will orbit the moon without a human crew, is scheduled to launch later this month.
Each of the selected regions are within 6 degrees latitude of the lunar South Pole, according to NASA.
Since specific landing sites are tightly coupled to the timing of the launch window, NASA said that having multiple sites ensures the flexibility to launch the mission throughout the year.
The sites were assessed using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, decades of publications and lunar science findings.
NASA said Friday that it will discuss the 13 chosen regions with "broader science and engineering communities through conferences and workshops to solicit inputs about the merits of each region."
Through the Artemis mission, NASA said, it will land the first woman and person of color on the moon.
The space agency is targeting the lunar south pole because it's believed to have water ice in permanently-shadowed craters.
Artemis I is scheduled to launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 29. It will be the first integrated test of the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket and ground systems at the center.
The spaceflight is scheduled to circle the Moon, helping pave the way for the crewed flight test on Artemis II in 2024 and the landing for Artemis III.
Three more human landings are scheduled for 2027 and 2028.
Last year, NASA selected SpaceX's Starship to design and build the human landing system to deliver crew from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon.
No human has set foot on the moon since Apollo 17 left in late 1972 and no other countries have sent explorers to the lunar surface.
For protection from the effects of Hurricane Ian, NASA's SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft roll back to the Vehicle Assembly Building from Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on September 27, 2022. The booster and spacecraft will ride out the storm inside the facility where NASA Engineers will prepare the vehicle for the maiden launch of the Artemis Program sometime from late October to mid November. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo