First US moon mission in 50 years – NASA plans launch for August 29 — RT EN

26 Aug 2022 9:58 pm

50 years after the last US Apollo mission, NASA on Monday gave the “green light” for the first step to “return” to the moon. Next Monday at 2:33 p.m. CEST, the most powerful rocket to date is to be launched to the moon – albeit initially unmanned.

Half a century after the end of the Apollo program in the USA, NASA wants to set off again on the way to the moon as part of its Artemis missions starting next Monday. “We’re ready for launch, which is absolutely amazing. This day has been a long time coming,” NASA Deputy Administrator Bob Cabana said at a news conference Monday. After a day-long meeting to discuss technical details, outstanding issues, expected weather and a number of other factors, the US space agency’s launch team received clearance to launch the giant and about 4.1 billion US dollar rocket of the “Space Launch System” (SLS) from the US Spaceport’s legendary Launch Complex 39B Kennedy Space Center to start in Florida for the first time.

The launch planned for Monday thus marks the beginning of a whole series of complex space flights as part of the so-called “Artemis” program, which is intended to bring people back to the surface of the moon 50 years after the end of the Apollo missions, as a precursor to subsequent flights to Mars as well . However, as always, the Artemis missions to the moon also harbor risks, as emphasized by Cabana and others. Artemis I is a test flight to put the spaceship through its paces. It is the first time that NASA’s SLS rocket has flown, also the first time that the Orion capsule intended for future crews will enter the immediate area of ​​influence of the moon’s gravity, and finally also the first time that the heat shield of this spacecraft then has to survive a rapid approach to land through the earth’s atmosphere. Accordingly, it is foreseeable that important findings will be collected and that not everything will possibly go exactly according to plan.

For this reason, there will initially be no people on board during this first flight of the SLS together with the Orion spacecraft. First flight candidates will have to wait until the next Artemis II flight, currently scheduled for 2024.

If the Artemis program is successful, a new space station called “GatewayEquipped with far more powerful tools and scientific instruments than the Apollo-era pioneers on the moon, astronauts on the moon’s surface could do so more gain important insights, both about the moon as a celestial body, and for the beginning of a conceivable development of natural resources of the earth’s satellite.And in particular, Artemis could be a useful precursor for sending humans even further into space – such as next to Mars .

“We go to Mars and return to the Moon to learn how to live, work and survive there,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told reporters Aug. 3. “How do you keep humans alive in these hostile conditions? We will learn how to use the resources on the moon to be able to build things in the future while we’re on the move.”

The rocket of SLS Block 1 is now often cited as the most powerful rocket ever built. In its final expansion stage SLS Block 1B for manned flights, it should then be even more powerful than the Saturn V, which was able to bring the Apollo astronauts to the moon between 1968 and 1973. Like the Saturn V rocket of the time, the SLS main stage is powered by a combination of liquid hydrogen and oxygen for fuel, using four rocket motors developed by the SSME engines of the earlier Space Shuttle missions. In contrast to the Saturn, but also analogous to the Space Shuttle program, the SLS will be launched flanked by two solid-state boosters. The two-stage rocket of the SLS Block 1, which is almost 100 meters high, can carry a payload of around 27,000 kilograms in one Geostationary transfer orbit and carry for flights to a lunar orbit.

If all goes well, the SLS’s rocket will become the Orion capsule 42-day voyage of discovery carry into space. The still unmanned spacecraft is to orbit the moon one and a half times on an orbit opposite to the orbit of the moon around the earth, which is known as the retrograde orbit. However, Artemis I’s test trajectory is not identical to those envisaged for later manned missions. Should Artemis II fly, it will then be a much shorter 10-day mission for up to four crew members, also for physiological reasons on board.

while the Orion capsule makes its first flight through space, teams on the ground at Cape Canaveral will test all onboard systems. The test flight, which starts on Monday, is intended to ensure, among other things, that the communication between the earth and the spacecraft as well as its guidance, navigation and control systems are working properly. Above all, it is checked whether the propulsion system of the Artemis missions can carry out the necessary maneuvers in order to stay on the planned course. This first long-term mission is designed to push the spacecraft to its limits and challenge it to potentially handle situations that might later become automatically manageable once astronauts are on board. That’s at least part of the plan.

The engine ignition Orion capsule on October 10 will initiate reentry into Earth’s atmosphere and prepare for a water landing in the Pacific Ocean. After re-entering denser layers of the atmosphere, the spacecraft’s thermal shield will be surrounded by a glowing plasma created by the frictional heat between the capsule and the air molecules. At 32 times the speed of sound, the spacecraft will penetrate the uppermost layers of the atmosphere and then, slowed down only by friction, fall towards the surface of the earth, surrounded by a fireball that can reach up to 5,000 degrees Celsius can get hot. When the heat shield has also done its job, the capsule, finally slowed down by parachutes, splashes down in the Pacific Ocean near San Diego off the coast of California.

Even if, contrary to expectations, the spacecraft’s first test flight proceeded with almost no major problems, the “way back to the moon” will still remain a longer-term and extremely complex challenge. The astronauts, who have not yet been chosen by name, should therefore set foot on the moon again for the first time in 2024 – if the schedule can be met by then. However, unlike the Apollo missions, which all landed near the lunar equator, Artemis III will land near the south pole of the moon. NASA has 13 possible ones so far Landing areas explored and presented. Each of these possible target areas forms a square with a side length of about 15 kilometers and contains at least 10 possible landing sites.

NASA is considering these targets because they contain various geological features that have not previously been explored. The scientists suspect that lunar rock and loose lunar material (analogous to the terrestrial regolith) in which water ice may have held for billions of years. The extraction of water ice from the lunar regolith would make it much easier to ensure a long-term human presence on the moon – similar to the research stations in Earth’s Antarctica. Views like this clearly give Cabana even more reason to be happy:

“I’m a product of the Apollo generation, and look what they’ve done for us. I can’t wait to see what the Artemis generation brings forth, as I believe they will inspire us even more than Apollo did . It will be absolutely outstanding.”

But even in Germany, people are eagerly awaiting the countdown that is supposed to usher in a new era of manned flights to the moon on Monday. Because with Alexander Gerst and Mathias Maurer even two German astronauts could set off on a moon mission as part of the Artemis program in the future. “A new era of space exploration begins with the launch of this majestic Artemis I rocket from the legendary 39B launch platform at Cape Canaveral,” Gerst wrote on Facebook on Tuesday:

“And on top sits the most modern spaceship in the world, Orion, built in the USA and to a large extent in Germany. Can’t wait to see this test flight on August 29th with my own eyes and feel the thunder of the engines. If he is successful, then the next launches will carry people to the moon and beyond, among them we Europeans. Exciting times.”

Those interested can start the SLS rocket on Monday on the official NASA YouTube channel pursue.

More on the subject – NASA’s Artemis program: DLR sends German test dummies to the moon

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