There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical that NASA will actually enact the Artemis Moon program to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024—Congress may not fund it, NASA's large, costly rocket remains far behind schedule, and history has been unkind to deep-space exploration programs since Apollo. However, should lunar landing missions occur during the next decade, they have the potential to go far beyond what NASA accomplished with the Apollo program half a century ago.

NASA scientists John Connolly and Niki Werkheiser spoke Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, and they provided more details about the agency's plan for human missions in the 2020s.

Nearly a week

The first mission to the Moon's surface, consisting of two crew members, will remain on the surface for 6.5 days—this is double the longest period of time any of the Apollo missions spent on the surface. The two astronauts will conduct up to four spacewalks on the surface of the Moon, performing a variety of scientific observations, including sampling water ice. "We will have a very robust science program from the very beginning," Connolly said.

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