CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – It’s time for NASA’s new moon rocket.
With 8.8 million pounds of thrust, the rocket named space launch system (SLS) – Designed to be more powerful than NASA’s bone Saturn V. Its Orion space capsule is a third larger than its predecessor, Apollo. However, neither of the two spacecraft passed the final test: Journey to the moon And return.
That will change on Monday (August 29), when NASA aims to launch the SLS megarocket and Orion Artemis 1a test flight that is the forefront of the agency’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2025. Liftoff is set for 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT) from Pad 39B here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. You can watch the launch live online Monday starts at 6:30 AM EST (1030 GMT).
“Zero hour is approaching for Gil Artemis,” Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis 1 mission manager, told reporters here on Saturday. “We have a strong sense of expectation.”
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates
more: 10 wild facts about the Artemis 1 lunar mission
This prediction is not something that NASA has alone. higher 200,000 spectators are expected (Opens in a new tab) To sink the Florida Space Coast here for a look at NASA’s first moon rocket to fly in over 50 years. Their hopes reflect NASA’s predictions of a successful mission where success is far from certain.
“This is a very risky mission,” said Jim Frey, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems development. “We have a lot of things that can go wrong during the mission in places where we might get home early, or we might have to have an abortion to get home.”
In fact, the mission may not launch at all.
“Our potential outcome on Monday is that we can go out the window, or we can clean up for any number of reasons,” Sarafin said. “We won’t promise we’ll go down on Monday.”
NASA has a two-hour window to attempt the Artemis 1 launch on Monday that closes at 10:33 a.m. EDT (1433 GMT). There is an 80% chance of good weather early in the window, although that drops to 60% later in the day due to the possibility of rain. NASA has backup launch days on September 2 and 5, if needed.
on Saturday, NASA detected five lightning strikes in Pad 39BNone of the strikes affected the SLS missile itself. They all hit the pillow’s lightning protection system, a network of turrets and wires, that weren’t strong enough to be a launch concern, NASA senior director of tests Jeff Spaulding said in an update Sunday.
video: Lightning strikes the Artemis 1 launch pad days before takeoff
Long way to the launch pad
NASA has been trying to build a giant new rocket for nearly two decades. In 2004, the agency announced plans to launch a massive rocket, then named it Ares Vas part of the Constellation program to return to the Moon by 2020. This program was eventually canceled, replaced by what became Artemis programalthoug Orion spacecraft He survived the transition. Five-piece solid rocket boosters (slightly larger than those used in the NASA shuttle program), originally part of Constellation Ares 1 . missile To launch Orion, I also found new life in the SLS.
“We went through our challenges, just like any other piece of this entire rocket,” Bruce Teller, NASA’s director of SLS boosters, told Space.com in an interview. “Everyone had their own challenges that they overcame during those years. Now I think we’re ready to go as far as we can. That’s really exciting.”
Congress directed NASA to build the Space Launch System more than a decade ago, calling on the agency to use older shuttle hardware like solid rocket boosters and RS-25-derived core engines to build a new deep space exploration vehicle. The first test flight of 2017 was targeted at that time. It’s behind schedule.
“I would simply say space is hard,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who was a senator when the SLS was approved, said Saturday about what the agency has learned over time. “You are developing new systems, and that takes money and takes time.”
Simple but aggressive goals
NASA Frey said he has “very simple, but aggressive” goals for Artemis 1.
First, the mission must test Orion’s heat shield to ensure it can withstand temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 degrees Celsius) when returning from the Moon at 25,000 mph (40,000 km/h). NASA also wants to make sure the SLS delivers Orion into lunar orbit to see how the spacecraft, which has a service module built and supplied by Airbus, can European Space Agencyperformed in deep space.
The space agency also wants to recover the capsule after it plunged into the Pacific Ocean to see how well it works overall. NASA said it carries more than 1,000 sensors to record every aspect of the flight.
at the farthest point of a landOrion will be 290,000 miles from our planet and 40,000 miles behind the moon – the farthest a crew-ranked capsule has visited so far (breaking the record set by Apollo 13 crew in 1970). NASA said its 42-day mission is significantly longer than the 10 days that a manned flight would take.
Despite its length, the mission is expected to complete only one and a half rounds of the moon as it flies in a long, circular orbit in the opposite direction of the moon’s path around the Earth. Mission managers said this “reverse orbit” would bring Orion as close as possible to about 60 miles (97 km) and up to 40,000 miles.
Inside Orion he’s wearing a spacesuit Model “Moonikin” Human torsos are covered with sensors to measure the radioactive environment that the Artemis astronauts will have to endure. And perhaps the most important test: re-entry, when Orion collides Earth’s atmosphereSkip a bit, then plunge back into what NASA calls “skip re-entry.”
“We’re pushing the vehicle to its limits, and really stressing the readiness of the crew,” Sarfin said.
There are some scientific goals, too. The Artemis 1 mission includes 10 mini cubes To test technologies for deep space exploration. one called NEA Scoutswill use a solar sail to leave the moon in search of a small asteroid while the others are expected to support Artemis projects near the moon.
“Some of them are testing the technology for deep space navigation. We have one that travels far away and encounters an asteroid,” said Jacob Blecher, chief exploration scientist with NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “But some of them will focus more on the Moon to take measurements of motion, actually mapping where some of the water deposits are.”
Astronauts return to the moon
If all goes well in Artemis 1, NASA will follow up Artemis 2a manned flight that will send four astronauts on a mission to fly around the Moon in 2024. The interval between missions is partly waiting and seeing how Orion performs as well as until NASA can use some of the Artemis 1’s avionics and other components aboard the manned flight.
And if the Artemis 2 mission is successful, NASA hopes to follow it up with the first manned moon landings in the 21st century. Artemis 3 In the year 2025. That landing on the moon, which will send an astronaut – among them The first woman on the moon – For the Moon’s south pole, don’t rely on factors beyond SLS and Orion.
NASA needs new spacesuits and a massive lander to complete the Artemis 3 mission. SpaceX huge building Starship NASA’s Moon Landing Vehicle While Other Companies Develop Artemis space suits. If either component is delayed, it will affect the agency’s plans.
“If our suits weren’t ready, we wouldn’t land on the moon and vice versa, if our suits weren’t ready and it wasn’t Starship,” Frey said.
But NASA stresses that it is committed to returning to the moon in a sustainable way that is not limited to footprints, flags and photos. The agency has already built hardware for Artemis 2 and future SLS boosters, with plans through at least Artemis 9.
NASA has contracts to build new components space station gate Round the moon to serve as a springboard for a lunar landing. The permanent goal is Marswhich Nelson said NASA is targeting a manned landing sometime in the late 2030s.
“There’s a big, big world out there to explore,” Nelson said. This is the next step in this exploration and this time we are going with our international partners.”
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