NASA’s Artemis return to the moon now has launch dates

NASA’s Artemis return to the moon now has launch dates

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NASA plans to take the first step in its return to the moon in late August or early September with the launch of the Orion spacecraft to orbit the moon, officials from the agency told reporters on Wednesday.

The long-awaited flight, which does not want astronauts on board, will take off on August 29, September 2 or 5, NASA said, giving the first concrete dates for a mission that has been in the works for years.

The flight will also mark the first launch of the agency’s massive Space Launch System rocket, a significant milestone in the Artemis campaign to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972.

Given the complexity of the vehicles and the fact that NASA has not launched the SLS rocket before, NASA stressed that the dates of a launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida were preliminary and could be changed.

NASA took several attempts earlier this year to conduct a fuel and simulated countdown test, known as the wet suit test, of the SLS rocket. As they loaded the rocket with 700,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, engineers discovered a number of problems, including a hydrogen leak that prevented NASA from completing the test countdown. As a result, NASA was forced to roll the rocket from the launch pad back to the assembly building for repairs and further testing.

Nevertheless, officials said they were able to complete enough of the test to continue with a launch attempt. On Wednesday, space officials said everything was going well.

NASA’s SLS lunar rocket rolls to the launch pad for the first time

The mission, known as Artemis I, will send the Orion crew capsule into orbit around the moon for about six weeks, allowing the agency to test a variety of systems before putting astronauts on board.

One of the main goals of the flight is to test Orion’s heat shield, said Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission chief. The heat shield is intended to protect Orion and future crews from the extreme temperatures it will encounter when it enters the Earth’s atmosphere at 24,500 mph, or Mach 32. Sarafin said that these temperatures will reach “half as high as the sun”.

NASA will also try to test the spacecraft’s navigation systems, its ability to use power taken from solar panels and its resilience as it travels through areas of high radiation. Three mannequins on board will be equipped with sensors to determine how the astronauts would fare on the flight. Sarafin said another test would be to recover the spacecraft after it splashed into the ocean.

Given that NASA has not attempted to send a spacecraft designed to fly humans to the moon in 50 years, Sarafin said problems are expected, but “our team is prepared to adapt along the way.”

If the Artemis I mission goes as planned, NASA plans to fly a similar mission, known as Artemis II, with astronauts on board. A human landing, called Artemis III, could come as early as 2025, NASA has said.

If NASA decides to continue with an Artemis I launch on August 29, it will roll the SLS rocket from the assembly building to the launch pad on August 18.

“We think we are well on our way to getting there [launch] try those days, ”said Jim Free, NASA’s Assistant Administrator. But he reminded reporters that astronauts often tell their families who come to see them launch into space that they should “plan a seven-day vacation to Florida, and you can see a launch there as well.”

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