NASA's most powerful rocket, Artemis 1, will perform a test flight as a dangerous lunar mission. NASA's Artemis 1 lunar mission is scheduled to begin at 29:8 a.m. EDT (33:12 GMT) on August 33. The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has a thrust rating of 8,8 million pounds. That makes it more powerful than NASA's Saturn V. Orion's spacecraft is even one-third smaller than its Apollo progenitor.
That will change on Monday, August 29, when NASA plans to launch Orion and the SLS megarocket aboard Artemis 1, when it will be the first test flight in the agency's Artemis program to send humans back to the moon by 2025.
to throw Beginning Monday at 6:30PM EDT, launch online (1030 GMT) You can watch live.
Up to 50 spectators are expected to fill Florida's Space Beach to see NASA launch the first moon rocket in more than 200.000 years.
"This is an extremely dangerous mission," says Jim Free, NASA's deputy director of exploration systems development.
“There are a number of things that could go wrong during the mission and force us to cancel or go home early,” he said.
On Monday, NASA has a two-hour window to attempt to launch Artemis 1 (1433 GMT), ending at 10:33 a.m. EDT. According to NASA, there is a 70% chance of positive weather during this time.
For almost two decades, NASA has been trying to build a massive new rocket. As part of Constellation's mission to return to the moon by 2020, NASA announced plans for a massive rocket, then known as Ares V, in 2004. Finally, the mission was shelved and now the Artemis program is up and running.
Five-piece solid rocket boosters, formerly part of Constellation's Ares 1 rocket to launch Orion, and slightly larger than those used in NASA's shuttle program, have also found a new home in the SLS.
“Just like every other part of this complete rocket, we went through our trials,” Bruce Tiller, NASA's director of SLS boosters, said in an interview. “Throughout those years, everyone faced challenges and overcame them. I think we're as ready to part as we can now. Besides, it's really exciting.”
More than a decade ago, Congress gave NASA permission to develop the Space Launch System and instructed the agency to use shuttle-age technology such as solid rocket boosters and RS-25 core engines to create a new spacecraft for deep space.
It was then that 2017 was designated as the year of the first test flight. There is a significant delay.
In response to what the agency has discovered over time, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who was a Florida senator at the time the SLS was approved, said Saturday, "I can only say that this area is tough." You create new systems that cost money and require effort.
According to Free, NASA has "extremely simple but ambitious" goals for Artemis 1.
Before returning at 25.000 miles from the moon, the mission needs to test Orion's heat shield to ensure it can withstand reentry temperatures of 5.000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 degrees Celsius) (40.000 kph).
Additionally, NASA wants to make sure SLS places Orion in lunar orbit so it can test its performance in deep space. Orion has a service module made by Airbus and provided by the European Space Agency.
The capsule will be recovered by the space agency after it crashes into the Pacific Ocean to evaluate its overall performance. It's equipped with more than 1.000 sensors to capture every aspect of the journey, according to NASA.
Orion will travel 290.000 miles and 40.000 miles beyond the Moon at its furthest point to the furthest crew-grade spacecraft ever traveled from Earth (breaking a record set by the Apollo 1970 crew in 13).
Despite its length, the mission is expected to complete only one and a half orbits of the moon as it flies in a long, circular orbit in the opposite direction of the Moon's path around Earth. This “distant retrograde orbit” will bring Orion as close as about 60 miles (97 km) and as far as 40.000 miles.
A "Moonikin" dummy dressed in a spacesuit is placed inside Orion, along with humanoid bodies equipped with sensors to measure the radiation level to which the Artemis crew will be exposed.
It's arguably the most important test, which will see Orion crash into Earth's atmosphere, jump briefly, and then land back for what NASA calls a "re-entry bypass."
Ten tiny cube satellites are part of the Artemis 1 project, which will test various technologies for deep space exploration. Others are expected to support Artemis projects near the moon, while someone named NEA Scout is expected to use a solar sail to leave the moon in search of a small asteroid.
“Some are experimenting with space navigation technology,” said Jacob Bleacher, director of the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA. There is even one approaching an asteroid from a greater distance.” But some will pay more attention to the moon, measuring its movement and even plotting potential locations of some puddles.
If all goes according to plan on Artemis 1, NASA will launch Artemis 2024, a crewed mission that will take four people on a flight journey around the moon in 2. The interval between missions is necessary for NASA to use some of Artemis 1's avionics and other components, as well as to wait and observe how Orion works.
If the Artemis 2 mission is successful, NASA aims to launch Artemis 3 in 2025 to make the first crewed moon landing of the twenty-first century. It depends on elements other than SLS and Orion for landing on that moon, which will carry two astronauts, including the first woman on the moon, to the moon's south pole.
To complete the Artemis 3 mission, NASA will need brand new spacesuits and a sizable lander. While other businesses are creating Artemis spacesuits, SpaceX is building a massive Starship lunar lander for NASA. If both components are delayed, the agency's plans will also be affected.
According to Free, we won't land on the moon if our teams aren't ready, and the same is true if Starship is ready, but if our teams aren't.
However, NASA emphasizes that it is committed to returning to the moon in a sustainable way and will not leave only footprints, flags and paintings. The organization has already built the hardware for the Artemis 2 and the upcoming SLS boosters and has plans for at least until Artemis 9.
To serve as a stage for moon landings, NASA has signed contracts to build various elements of the new Gateway space station orbiting the moon. The permanent target, according to Nelson, is Mars, where a crewed landing is planned in the late 2030s.
Nelson added that there is a vast, vast universe waiting to be discovered. This is the second phase of this exploration and this time we are collaborating with foreign partners.