Pitfalls of Artemis: Let’s fix Earth before we explore space

It is no secret that the Earth is dying. The extreme amounts of carbon emissions humans have put into the air through industrialization, transportation and deforestation have had devastating impacts on the Earth that scientists say are ramping up each year. Unfortunately, because the Earth is dying, people are too. The most current example of this is the floods in Pakistan, which have killed over 1,300 people and left one-third of the country underwater, according to the United Nations.

At this point, the human race should be doing all it can to mitigate rising temperatures and combat the horrifying effects of climate change. It might seem radical to suggest this must be our sole focus, but as young people, we will have to live through the consequences of the current leading generation’s climate decisions. This is why it is beyond frustrating to see the NASA Artemis program is well underway while using monetary, intellectual and material resources precious to the world’s precarious state.

The Artemis program is a NASA-led project with the goal to get people back on the moon. Astronauts will explore more of the moon’s surface than ever before, and it will be the first time both women and people of color travel to the moon. The goal is to establish a long-term human presence on the moon, which will eventually help get people to Mars, according to NASA.

According to PBS, NASA’s inspector general estimates that the entire Artemis program will cost $93 billion over a 13-year period. Let that sink in — $93 billion. That is an unfathomable amount of money that could be used to fund sustainable energy sources and actually implement what researchers say will best help the Earth. So how does NASA justify its use of these resources?

“We’re going back to the moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits and inspiration for a new generation of explorers: the Artemis Generation,” according to the NASA website.

NASA highlights its main targets of economic growth and scientific discovery. While scientific research on the moon can be used to aid in climate change action, I think there are more immediate uses of the $93 billion budget to research climate change solutions on Earth. Rather, the very existence of this program suggests climate inaction. There is no reliable source that quantifies the seemingly sizable carbon footprint of Artemis, considering the industrial needs of the program along with the launching of rockets, which emit CO2 into the atmosphere.

In a more positive light, the Artemis program will create economic growth that comes with the creation of jobs needed for such a huge undertaking, as NASA points out above. However, this line of rhetoric could be struck down, because investing in renewable energy will create jobs too. Industries would be implemented and expanded over the production of sustainable energy sources, such as nuclear fission projects.

Basically, the point is moot. Yes, Artemis has and will create more jobs, but the human race is at a crossroads where we must choose between our lives and the scientific discovery of extraterrestrial bodies. The sheer intellectual power at work on the Artemis program is insane. To me, it is a shame they are not using their assets more efficiently to research alternative energy sources, resources and methods to reduce the effects of climate change in a direct manner.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that NASA does important work in their science and research about climate change and its effects. Because of the unique ability to observe Earth from the International Space Station and satellites, NASA’s work on climate change is invaluable in creating a solution. However, the specific project of Artemis does not seem to fit the clear goal of researching climate change, which is a severe pitfall of the project.

As a kid who dreamed of being an astronaut and astronomer, I love the moon and outer space. I am fascinated by the unknown of the universe and galaxies, and I wonder what drives NASA’s programs, especially Artemis. However, I feel like we are doing it all backward. Let’s fix the planet and then go explore the universe. We might only have time to do one of those things if we don’t get our act together here on Earth.