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All systems go to the moon for Artemis 1 mission – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, the Artemis program is poised to take the baton of lunar exploration Monday with a test launch of NASA’s most powerful rocket ever.

The goal is to bring humans back to the moon and eventually Mars for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972.

The 98-meter-long Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is scheduled to lift off at 8:33 a.m. (1233 GMT) from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

The mission, which has been in the planning for more than a decade, may be unmanned but is highly symbolic for NASA, which is under pressure from China and private rivals like SpaceX.

The hotels around Cape Canaveral are fully booked, with between 100,000 and 200,000 spectators expected at the start.

The massive orange-and-white rocket has been sitting atop KSC’s Launch Complex 39B for a week.

“You can feel the excitement and the energy since we rolled out on the pad last week,” said Janet Petro, director of the KSC. “It’s really, really tangible.”

The aim of the flight, dubbed Artemis 1, is to test the SLS and the Orion crew capsule that sits on the rocket.

Sensor-equipped mannequins will replace crew members and record acceleration, vibration and radiation readings.

Cameras will capture every moment of the 42-day journey and include a selfie of the spacecraft with the Moon and Earth in the background.

– Splashdown in the Pacific –

The Orion capsule will orbit the moon, approach to within 100 kilometers at its closest approach, and then fire its engines to reach a distance of 40,000 miles, a record for a spacecraft designed to carry people.

One of the main objectives of the mission is to test the capsule’s heat shield, which at 16 feet in diameter is the largest ever built.

On its return to Earth’s atmosphere, the heat shield must withstand speeds of 25,000 miles per hour and temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).

Orion, whose descent will be slowed by parachutes, will end its journey by splashing down off the coast of San Diego in the Pacific.

Monday’s launch will be at the mercy of weather, which can be unpredictable in Florida at this time of year, and NASA has built in a two-hour launch window.

Should the rocket not be able to launch on Monday, September 2nd and 5th are entered as alternative flight dates.

Otherwise all systems are running.

NASA gave the green light for the mission Tuesday after a detailed inspection known as the Flight Readiness Review.

This does not mean that nothing can go wrong with the first flight of a rocket and a capsule.

– ‘Inherent Risk’ –

“We’re doing something that’s incredibly difficult and has inherent risk,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis 1’s mission manager.

As this is an unmanned flight, Sarafin said the mission will continue in conditions that would not be acceptable for a flight with astronauts.

“If we had a failed deployment of the solar array, we would keep going, and that’s something we wouldn’t necessarily do on a manned flight,” he said.

A complete failure would be devastating for a program that costs $4.1 billion per launch and is already years behind schedule.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will put astronauts in orbit around the moon without landing on its surface. The crew of Artemis 3 is not expected to land on the moon before 2025 at the earliest.

While the Apollo astronauts who walked the moon were all white males, the Artemis program plans to include the first woman and person of color.

And since humans have already visited the moon, Artemis has another lofty goal in mind – an eventual human mission to Mars.

The Artemis program aims to establish a permanent human presence on the moon with an orbiting space station called Gateway and a surface base.

Gateway would serve as a way station and fueling station for a journey to Mars that would take at least several months.

“I think it will inspire even more than Apollo,” said Bob Cabana, NASA assistant administrator and former astronaut, of Artemis. “It’s going to be absolutely outstanding.”

#systems #moon #Artemis #mission

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