NASA expects to take the first woman and person of color to the Moon on Artemis III sometime after 2024, in homage to the feminist icon for whom the mission is named.
WASHINGTON — Story from The Conversation, by Marie Claire BeaulieuAssociate Professor of Classics at Tufts University.
Artemis I sends an uncrewed rocket on a month-long journey around the moon. The program aims to increase women’s participation in space exploration – 30% of its engineers are women. In addition, the Artemis I mission will carry two mannequins designed to study the effects of radiation on women’s bodies so NASA can learn how to better protect female astronauts.
Female astronauts are currently selected for missions less often than males because their bodies tend to reach NASA’s maximum acceptable radiation threshold sooner. NASA expects to take the first woman and person of color to the moon on Artemis III sometime after 2024.
As a scholar of Greek mythology, I find the mission’s name quite evocative: the Greeks and Romans associated Artemis with the moon, and she has also become a modern feminist icon.
Artemis was an important deity in ancient Greece, dating back at least to the beginning of the first millennium BC. or even earlier. She was a daughter of Zeus, the main god of the Olympians, who ruled the world from the top of Mount Olympus. She was also the twin sister of Apollo, god of the sun and oracle.
Artemis was a virgin goddess of the wild and the hunt. Her independence and strength have long inspired women to engage in a variety of activities. For example, in a poem titled “Artemis,” author Allison Eir Jenks writes, “I am no longer your godmother…your cook, your bus stop, your therapist, your garbage drawer,” emphasizing woman’s freedom and autonomy.
As the goddess of animals and the wild, Artemis has also inspired conservation programs that see the goddess as an example of a woman exercising her power by caring for the planet.
Although the Greek Artemis was strong and courageous, she was not always kind and caring, even towards women. Her rashness has been used to explain a woman’s sudden death, particularly during childbirth. This aspect of the goddess has faded over time. With the rise of feminism, Artemis has become an icon of female power and empowerment.
NASA has a long history of naming its missions after mythological figures. Beginning in the 1950s, many rockets and launch systems were named after Greek celestial deities such as Atlas and Saturn, whose Greek name is Cronos.
Atlas and Saturn weren’t just gods, they were titans. In Greek mythology, titans represent the untamed elemental forces of nature and are thus reminiscent of the vastness of space exploration. Although known for their immense strength and power, the Titans were also rebellious and dangerous, and were eventually defeated by the Olympians, who represent civilization in Greek mythology.
After the advent of manned spaceflight, NASA began naming missions after children of Zeus, who are associated with the heavens. The Mercury program, active from 1958 to 1963, was named after the Roman counterpart of Hermes, the messenger god who flies in his winged sandals between Mount Olympus, earth and the underworld.
Beginning in 1963, the three-year Gemini program included a capsule designed for two astronauts and named after Zeus’ twin sons – Castor and Pollux, known in Greek as Dioscuri – who were cast into the stars as the constellation of Gemini. In Greek and Roman art, they were regularly represented with a star above their heads.
The space shuttle program, which lasted from 1981 to 2011, steered away from mythological monikers, and the names Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor were intended to evoke a spirit of innovation.
With Artemis, NASA nods back to the Apollo program, which lasted from 1963 to 1972 and brought the first humans to the moon in 1969. Over 50 years later, Artemis will pick up where her twin brother left off, ushering in a more diverse era of manned spaceflight.
This article is from The conversation, an independent, non-profit news organization dedicated to spreading ideas from experts. Republished under a Creative Commons license.
https://www.king5.com/article/syndication/the-conversation/artemis-nasa-rocket-namesake/507-095521a3-331a-460d-bc81-af78588e41a4 Who is NASA’s Artemis moon mission named after?