Finally, NASA is just weeks away from the first flight of its new massive lunar rocket. It’s the first uncrewed test flight for NASA’s Artemis lunar program, which aims to return humans to the Moon within this decade, and space agency leaders are very excited about it.
“Prepare for Artemis I; it’s a fact!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted Tuesday after the space agency’s lunar rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), arrived at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He added that the SLS spacecraft and its Orion spacecraft “will soon embark on a test flight that will go further than any spacecraft designed for humans.”
NASA plans to launch the Artemis I mission, and has postponed the Artemis-I launch twice: the first time, on Monday, August 29, and the second time, on September 3. Scientists may have to wait until mid-October to start the launch.
“It feels surreal,” he said, “because we’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, and it’s finally here.” independent Laura Forczyk, founder of the space analysis agency Astralytica and author of the book Becoming Out of the World: Learning from Astronauts to Prepare for Your Space Flight.
But if NASA officials and space enthusiasts are excited about launching the SLS into the sky, it’s not clear that the American public shares their enthusiasm.
“Most of the United States did not care about NASA’s plan to return humans to the moon,” Forszyk said.
But she hopes that will change, and soon.
The SLS, or the largest rocket ever to fly, is an extremely heavy launch vehicle “we haven’t seen since a Saturn V rocket,” Forczyk says.
At 322 feet (98 m) tall, with a core stage surrounded by two rocket boosters in a configuration similar to the now retired space shuttle, the SLS is slightly shorter than the Saturn V, but more powerful, as it generates 8.8 million. pounds of thrust compared to 7.6 million for Saturn V.
“It would be something that would dazzle people’s minds if they saw it in person,” Forchek said. “I think it would be more than just a single point of light on CNN. I think it would be something that would grab the world’s attention.”
And if the world continues to pay attention, NASA has a big show in store.
For the Artemis I mission, the SLS will launch Orion, the 21st century equivalent of the Apollo spacecraft, to the moon and beyond and back over the course of a 42-day mission. Orion carries with it scientific experiments on the moon and cameras to document its journey to the moon with a higher resolution than the Apollo missions.
“Rockets are just a means of transportation. And what do they transmit? They transmit science. They transmit technology,” Forszyk said. “It will do radiation tests and record observations of the moon.”
Radiation levels are just some of the measurements Orion will take through three models aboard Artemis I, each designed to study how the flight affects human astronauts. This is because human astronauts are the next step.
After the successful Artemis I mission, NASA plans to follow up with Artemis II in May 2024, when up to four astronauts will fly an Artemis I-like trajectory around the moon.
In 2025, with the Artemis III mission, NASA will seek to land the first humans on the moon since the 1970s, including the first woman and person of color.
Several generations of people — Millennials, Generation Z and the next alpha generation — have never seen a human set foot on another planet, says Vorzyk, including herself, and she believes a contemporary mission to the Moon will capture the attention of the planet in a way that large segments of the world can’t even imagine Of the population.
In the United States and the world, Forczyk said, several generations have grown up without ever seeing a human set foot outside this world, and Artemis I is the first step on a journey that will bring human spaceflight back to the horizon. The center of the world’s imagination.
“If we go back to May 2020, people were very excited about the launch of SpaceX to the International Space Station (ISS), because it was the first time that Americans were back in orbit. [por su cuenta] Since the retirement of the space shuttle.” American astronauts have traveled to the International Space Station on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for nine years after the shuttle’s retirement in 2011, but “the return to the moon is a more significant period of time. It is an even more monumental achievement because so much time has passed, since 1972.”
NASA will continue to send additional Artemis missions until the late 1920s, eventually building a lunar orbit space station and outposts at the moon’s south pole. It’s a program designed to test operational technologies and strategies that NASA wants to develop for future planetary missions, such as a manned mission to Mars sometime in the 1940s.
“We want to open up the rest of the solar system so that we can continue to explore our natural environment around us,” Voorchik said.
But the great visions of Artemis’ later missions and the eventual human mission to Mars hinge on a successful test flight of Artemis I. It’s possible something could go wrong, but Forczyk doesn’t think it’s likely: much like James Space Telescope Webb, who was also as delayed as the SLS and Orion and was more expensive than originally expected, NASA took its time to make sure there were no flaws in the SLS. Your future plans depend on it.
“All eyes are on the show,” he said. NASA is a very well known and popular government agency, but it has also been heavily criticized for the amounts of money it spends. So, if all the attention is focused here, you have to justify the expense. You have to make sure politicians and the public know their tax money will pay off.”
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