NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, due to launch Monday, is a 42-day journey across the far side of the moon and back.
The meticulously choreographed unmanned flight was designed to deliver spectacular imagery as well as valuable scientific data.
– Blastoff –
The giant Space Launch System rocket will make its maiden flight from Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Its four RS-25 engines with two white boosters on either side will produce 8.8 million pounds (39 meganewtons) of thrust – 15 percent more than the Apollo program’s Saturn V rocket.
After two minutes, the engines fall back into the Atlantic.
After eight minutes, the orange core stage will fall in sequence, leaving the Orion crew’s pod attached to the preliminary cryogenic propulsion stage.
This stage will orbit the Earth once, bringing Orion on course to the Moon and falling away about 90 minutes after launch.
– trajectory –
That leaves Orion, which will fly astronauts in the future and will be powered by a service module built by the European Space Agency.
It will take several days to reach the moon, flying about 100 kilometers at closest approach.
“It’s going to be spectacular. We’re going to hold our breath,” said Mission Flight Director Rick LaBrode.
The capsule will fire its engines to enter a deep retrograde orbit (DRO) 40,000 miles behind the Moon, a distance record for a spacecraft designed to carry humans.
“Distant” refers to high altitude, while “retrograde” refers to the fact that Orion will orbit the moon in the opposite direction to that of the moon’s orbit around the earth.
DRO is a stable orbit because objects are balanced between the gravitational pull of two large masses.
After passing the moon to use its gravitational support, Orion will begin the return journey.
– Home trip –
The main objective of the mission is to test the capsule’s heat shield, the largest ever built, measuring five meters in diameter.
On its return to Earth’s atmosphere, it must withstand a speed of 25,000 miles per hour and a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).
Slowed by a series of parachutes until it flies at less than 20 miles per hour, Orion will splash up off the coast of San Diego in the Pacific.
Divers will attach cables to tow it to a US Navy ship in a matter of hours.
– the crew –
The capsule will sport a mannequin dubbed “Moonikin Campos,” named after a legendary NASA engineer who saved Apollo 13, in the commander’s seat, wearing the agency’s brand new uniform.
Campos will be fitted with sensors to record acceleration and vibration, and will also be accompanied by two other dummies, Helga and Zohar, made of materials designed to mimic bones and organs.
One wears a radiation vest, the other doesn’t, to test the effects of radiation in space.
– What will we see? –
Multiple onboard cameras make it possible to follow the entire journey from multiple angles, including that of a passenger in the capsule.
Cameras at the end of the solar panels will take selfies of the vehicle with the Moon and Earth in the background.
– CubeSats –
Life will imitate art with a technology demonstration called Callisto, inspired by the Starship Enterprise’s talking computer.
This is an improved version of Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, which is requested by the control center to adjust the light in the capsule or read flight data.
The idea is to make life easier for astronauts in the future.
In addition, a payload of 10 CubeSats, shoebox-sized microsatellites, will be deployed from the rocket’s upper stage.
They have numerous goals: study an asteroid, study the effects of radiation on living organisms, look for water on the moon.
These projects, carried out independently by international companies or researchers, take advantage of the rare opportunity of a launch into space.
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