Friday, August 5, 2022

Nasa officials outline the August 29 Artemis I lunar mission

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Nasa’s long-awaited return to the moon could begin as early as August 29, and the excitement was hard to miss even in the sober voices of Nasa officials and engineers during a press conference on Wednesday.

“The Saturn Five took us to the moon half a century ago,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Now, as we embark on the first Artemis test flight, we recall the turbulent past of this agency, but our eyes are not on the immediate future, but on the Out There.”

Artemis is Nasa’s new lunar program, and the upcoming flight on August 29 is called Artemis I. It will be an unmanned test flight to test Nasa’s giant lunar rocket, the Space Launch System, or SLS, and the Orion spacecraft, the will fly in to test around and beyond the Moon before returning to Earth 42 days later.

It’s a mission that will pave the way for Artemis II in spring 2023, a manned lunar flyby, and Artemis III in 2025, which will land humans on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

“NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon,” Nelson said in his speech on Wednesday. “Astronauts will live and work in space on these increasingly complex missions. And we will develop the science and technology to send the first humans to Mars.”

Nelson and other NASA officials provided an overview of the Artemis I mission and answered media questions about the upcoming test flight.

The SLS rocket and Orion are currently housed in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, but will “roll out” around August 18 to launch Complex 39B, according to Nasa Artemis Mission Manager Michael Sarafin.

“It will signal that launch is near,” he said.

The entire 32-story rocket and launch platform will be positioned over the launch complex’s flame ditch by Aug. 27, and refueling operations, which will load the rocket with liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen fuel, will begin on the morning of Aug. 29. If launch is scrubbed, Nasa has more launch windows on September 5th and 6th.

If all goes well for launch, SLS will rise with a plume of fire producing 8.8 million pounds of thrust, 15% more powerful than the Saturn V rocket of the 1960s and ’70s, Mr Nelson pointed out.

“The 32-story rocket will climb its way up through the atmosphere and in two minutes all of the boosters’ solid propellant will be expended and jettisoned, as will all of the liquid propellant in eight minutes and the core phase will be jettisoned,” he said Mr. Sarafin. The rocket’s upper stage and Orion will make one orbit around the Earth while Orion deploys its solar arrays to take advantage of battery power, and if all looks good: “At this point, the rocket has done its job and now Orion is on its way.” to the moon.”

Unlike the Apollo missions, which entered an equatorial orbit around the center of the moon, Artemis 1 will enter a polar orbit, “an elliptical orbit around the moon that looks like the face of a clock facing us.” ‘ said Mr Nelson. But it won’t stay there and will continue another 38,000 miles from the moon.

“Orion will be about 270, 275,000 miles from Earth at its furthest point at this point,” Mr. Sarafin said. “It will be farther than any mannable spaceship has ever traveled.”

All of this will serve the four main goals of the Artemis I mission, according to Sarafin.

One goal is to demonstrate that the SLS rocket and Orion can safely fly as intended, another is to collect as much data about the flight as possible. The third is to use small satellites to do science and capture images of the mission to share with the public.

The final and most important objective is to test the Orion spacecraft’s heat shield.

“After its long flight test, Orion will come home faster and hotter than any spacecraft before it,” Nelson said. “It will hit Earth’s atmosphere at 32 times the speed of sound,” using friction to dissipate all of the energy imparted to it by the massive SLS rocket at the time of launch.

According to Mr. Sarafin, it will take about 20 minutes from the point of peak warming for Orion to slow down enough for its parachutes to open. “Then it will splash into the Pacific at about 20 miles per hour,” he said. “A team from the US Navy and NASA will receive the waiting spacecraft and retrieve all data from it.”

According to Mr. Nelson, Nasa Artemis I will propel faster and harder than flying with people on board, all to learn as much as possible before the first manned missions back to the moon.

And the Artemis program itself is designed as an experimental training ground where Nasa can learn all about the technologies and human operations needed to go far beyond the moon in an eventual manned mission to the Red Planet.

“We’re going back to the moon to learn, to live and work to survive,” said Mr. Nelson. “We’re going to learn how to use the resources on the moon to be able to build things in the future because we’re not a quarter of a million miles away, not a three-day trip. But millions and millions of miles away, in a journey of months and months if not years.”

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