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Artemis: should we leave Earth behind?

Malcolm Streitfeld

Anchor Staff Writer

In January, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson declared that Artemis II, a crewed mission that will take four astronauts around the moon, has been delayed from its originally planned launch date of December 2024 to at least Sept. 2025. As a result, Artemis III, the first crewed landing, has been moved from late 2025 to at least Sept. 2026. NASA has explained that hardware issues are the reason for the delay. This is unfortunate, but I see a silver lining to this setback: a chance to fix the problems with our own celestial home before we visit its neighbor.

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Omar Baddour, the head of the World Meteorological Organization, recently told reporters that  “There is a high probability that 2024 will again break the record of 2023”. In response to this, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guerres declared that “Earth's issuing a distress call. The latest State of the Global Climate report shows a planet on the brink. Fossil fuel pollution is sending climate chaos off the charts." Considering such alarming information, I can’t help but be excited at the prospect of sending astronauts back to the moon sounds, but this is not the time for such a thing. NASA’s priorities should be focused primarily here on Earth. They have further intentions of building a Surface Habitat that will provide 30-60 habitability for a crew of up to four allowing for the astronauts to explore farther and longer on each visit to the lunar surface. Then, they plan to send MAGGIE (Mars Aerial and Ground Global Intelligent Explorer) to scout the atmosphere of Mars, but what’s the point of any of this if we’re just going to continue to ignore the growing crisis happening down on the Earth’s surface? Those astronauts will need a planet to go back to after all. 

Now, to be clear, I am not entirely opposed to the Artemis Project. The Artemis Project is significant in that if successful, Christina Koch will be the first woman to set foot on the moon and Victor Glover will be the first person of color to do so. If all goes according to plan, then this will be a huge landmark for our species and might help usher in a new age of space travel. I just worry that with all the fanfare surrounding the Artemis missions, we will forget about climate change until it is too late to slow it down.

We’re running out of time. Last year, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that while the world will likely surpass its most ambitious climate target - limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures by the early 2030’s, we won’t be able to adapt to climate extremes past that point. There can be no more dragging of feet or setting deadlines to be reached X number of years from now. Action has to be taken swiftly and decisively before we fall victim to our own hubris. The march of progress is as rapid as always, but I have to ask, at what cost? How far are we as a species willing to go, to discover things out in the cosmos? Are we willing to risk the creatures, both discovered and undiscovered, so close to home?

Ultimately, while we continue to advance towards further exploration of both the Moon and Mars, let’s not forget our roots. Let’s work just as hard to save our home planet from catastrophe. For the Earth is just as crucial in the long term as its fellow solar counterparts.


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