Artemis 1: NASA’s lunar mission explained

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on the Florida coast could soon see its first launch of a massive moon rocket since 1973, as the space agency prepares to launch its Artemis I mission as early as August 29.

An uncrewed test flight of Nasa’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, Artemis I is Nasa’s first full test of hardware, the agency hopes to put astronauts back on the Moon by 2025, and propel a decade of lunar activity that will serve as a testing ground for technologies aimed eventually at visiting Mars.

Here’s everything you need to know about NASA’s upcoming rocket launch and New Moon program for the 21stst century.

When is Artemis 1 launching and how can you watch it?

Artemis 1 is currently scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center no earlier than 8:33 a.m. EDT on August 29. The launch will be broadcast live on NASA televisionspace agency website and the NASA app.

If the launch is canceled for any reason, Nasa also has launch windows on September 2 and 5, although Nasa officials have said they may launch the uncrewed test flight under certain conditions that could grounding a manned flight.

What is Artemis?

NASA’s Moon program for the 21stst century, Artemis will involve a progression of uncrewed and then crewed lunar flybys, culminating in the first human landing on the Moon in more than 50 years. The space agency then plans to fly crewed missions to the lunar surface once a year for the rest of the decade, building a space station in lunar orbit and a base on the lunar south pole where astronauts will test technologies. and the skills needed in the long term. objective – a crewed mission to Mars in the early 2040s.

Following Artemis I, Artemis II will see a crew of astronauts perform a lunar flyby in the spring of 2024. Artemis III, currently scheduled for 2025, will see the first astronauts, including the first woman and person of color, land on the lunar surface since 1972.

What is SLS?

NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, is the largest rocket built since the Apollo program’s Saturn V rocket.

In its current configuration known as Block 1, SLS consists of a central liquid hydrogen and oxygen booster field with two solid rocket boosters mounted on its sides reminiscent of the Space Shuttle, together capable of producing 8.8 million of thrust books. That’s about 15% more thrust than the Saturn V – when it launches on August 29, SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever launched.

With the Orion spacecraft at its top, SLS stands 322 feet tall and can lift more than 90 tons into low Earth orbit. Together with the SLS Block 1 upper stage, known as the interim cryogenic propulsion stage, the launch system can deliver 27 tons of payload to the Moon.

What is Orion?

Orion is the spacecraft built by Lockheed-Martin and selected by NASA to return astronauts to the Moon as part of the Artemis program. It resembles in many ways the Apollo space capsule of the 1960s and 1970s, but is slightly more spacious – it can accommodate four astronauts compared to three for Apollo – and is built around modern computing and navigation technologies.

Like the Apollo capsule, Orion wears a heat shield to slow itself by friction as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, and will use parachutes to slow itself down before plunging into the Pacific Ocean.

What is the mission of Artemis I?

Artemis I is the first test flight for SLS and Orion, and a crucial test to ensure that all rocket and spacecraft systems will function properly in space before the first humans board Artemis II in 2023.

Artemis I is a 42-day mission that will see SLS launch Orion to the Moon. After a flyby that will take the spacecraft just 62 miles from the lunar surface, Orion will enter a wide orbit around the Moon for six days to collect flight data. The spacecraft will also carry three mannequins to help collect data on how the flight may affect the bodies and health of astronauts on the Artemis II and III missions.

A map of the Artemis I mission

(Nasa)

The most crucial element of the mission will come to an end, when Orion re-enters Earth’s atmosphere at 32 times the speed of sound and puts its heat shield to the test for the first time. This is the mission’s number one priority, according to NASA officials.

“It’s an ablative heat shield, and the only way to test it is to pull it out and let it in at Mach 32,” Administrator Nelson said at a press conference Aug. 3. “Orion will return home faster and hotter than any spacecraft before.”

After losing speed as heat, the Orion spacecraft’s parachutes will drop it into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Baja California at about 20 miles per hour.

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