NASA’s new Moon rocket lifts off, 50 years after Apollo | Space News

NASA’s new Moon rocket blew up during its maiden flight with three test dummies on board early Wednesday, bringing the US one step closer to sending astronauts back to the Moon for the first time. since the end of the Apollo program 50 years ago.

If all goes well during the three-week flight, the rocket will propel an empty crew into a wide orbit around the Moon, and then the spacecraft will return to Earth with a collision in Thailand. Binh Duong in December.

After years of delays and costs in excess of billions of dollars, the Space Launch System rocket soared into the sky, ascending from Kennedy Space Center with a thrust of 4 million kilograms (8.8 million pounds) and reaches 160 km/h (100 mph) in seconds. The Orion capsule was placed on top, ready to plunge out of Earth’s orbit toward the Moon less than two hours after the flight.

Moonshot nearly three months after a fuel leak caused the rocket to bounce between the hangar and the launch pad. Forced indoors by Hurricane Ian in late September, the rocket was still outside when Nicole swept past last week with winds of more than 130 km/h (80 mph). Although the wind peeled off a 3-meter (10-foot) strip of glue near the capsule, the managers gave the green light for the launch.

The takeoff marked the beginning of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, named after Apollo’s mythical twin sister. The space agency is aiming to send four astronauts around the Moon on its next flight in 2024 and land humans there as early as 2025.

The 98-meter (322-foot) SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA, with more thrust than the space shuttle or the mighty Saturn V spacecraft that sent humans to the Moon.

Orion will reach the Moon on Monday, more than 370,000km (230,000 miles) from Earth. After arriving within 130km (80 miles) of the Moon, the capsule will enter a distant orbit extending about 64,000km (40,000 miles) beyond.

The $4.1 billion test flight is expected to last 25 days, roughly the length of time the crew will be on board. The space agency intends to push the spacecraft to its limits and spot any problems before the astronauts put the straps on. Mannequins — NASA calls them moonequins — are fitted with sensors to measure things like vibrations, acceleration, and cosmic radiation.

The rocket is expected to be completed by 2017. Government watchdogs estimate NASA will spend $93 billion on the project by 2025.

Eventually, NASA hopes to establish a base on the Moon and send astronauts to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s.

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