Fifty-three years after man first stepped on the moon, NASA is kicking off its ambitious Artemis program to get us back there, starting with a massive new rocket launch on Thursday. Two.
The Artemis I mission scheduled for Monday morning will see the first flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the second flight of the Orion capsule. It’s a long way to the launch pad.
The origin story of SLS stretches back to 2010, when Congress directs NASA to develop a rocket as a sequel to the space shuttle. If the rocket’s shape looks familiar – especially the two solid boosters flanked by a central liquid hydrogen reservoir – it’s because it borrows much of its technology from the space shuttle. But even with the emergence of private launch companies like SpaceX, which has perfected the art of rocket reuse, NASA, Congress, and the defense contractors they hired persisted in developing SLS.
Throughout, the project was mired in cost overruns and technical delays. In total, SLS has cost more than $20 billion — and since none of the rocket’s parts are reusable, the costs associated with the project are far from over.
Still, Monday’s launch still marks the beginning of humanity’s greatest era of space exploration. If all goes according to plan, humans could explore regions of the moon that have never been touched before. We may be entering a period when the moon is not just a beautiful, glowing orb in the sky, but also a powerful research station like Antartica, or a guide station to other parts of the planet. solar system, to Mars and beyond.
The main goal of the mission is to test Orion and its key components, such as the re-entry heat shield and communication systems, before the capsule carries humans into the capsule. end of this decade. To better understand how humans can move in the capsule, NASA installed a dummy inside it. NASA said the dummy, named Moonikin Campos after an Apollo 13-era electrical engineer, Arturo Campus, will be equipped with sensors to measure radiation, as well as “vibrations and accelerations” that humans will undergo, NASA said.
Orion will reach initial orbit less than nine minutes after takeoff. The capsule will detach from the core about two hours after launch, after which the portion will, along with the solid boosters, splash back into the ocean (no part of the SLS is reusable). Over the course of a four- to six-week mission, Orion will travel 280,000 miles from Earth, making several trips near the moon before plunging into coastal California on October 10. The furthest ship ever used by man. traveled, according to NASA. The Artemis I quest will also deposit 10 CubeSats in orbitspecific scientific and technical goals.
What is next
The two-hour launch window will open Monday at 8:33 a.m. ET. This is the first of very few opportunities to send a 322-foot rocket and capsule into space. If NASA doesn’t launch the rocket within the two-hour period of Monday, it will have another chance on September 2 and another chance on September 5. If a launch doesn’t happen on any given day. On any of these three days, the rocket will have to be pushed back. for VAB and critical tests – including the Critical Flight End System, a series of components that ensure the rocket can be safely destroyed after launch if required – will need to be performed again.
The next launch period will be from September 20 to October 4, with another chance from October 17 to October 31.
Following this mission, NASA is aiming to launch Artemis II in 2024. That mission will be done. This is followed by mid-decade Artemis III, which will see a woman and a person of color walk on the moon. For this final mission, a SpaceX Starship vehicle will carry astronauts on the final leg from lunar orbit to the surface, part of the a $2.9 billion contract the company won last April.
NASA will live stream the launch from its YouTube channel. The video will begin at 6:30 a.m. EST Monday.