NASA announced Wednesday that it may launch “Artemis 1,” the first mission in the US program to return to the moon, on August 29.
The agency set two alternative dates for September 2 and September 5, and the announcement of these dates coincided with the 53rd anniversary of the landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the moon on July 20, 1969.
More than half a century later, the “Artemis” program is expected to open the door for Americans to return to the moon, with a crew that includes the first woman and first person of color to go to the moon.
However, “Artemis 1” will not include any astronauts, as this mission aims to test NASA’s new giant rocket, “SLS”, which will make its first flight, and on its roof the “Orion” capsule, in which a human crew will sit, starting from the next mission. Artemis 2″.
The launch will take place from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA, and the capsule, once launched, with a thrust from the rocket, will head towards the moon, where it will be stationed in orbit before returning to Earth.
Depending on the final launch date of the three announced dates, the mission may last from 39 to 42 days.
And the “Orion” capsule had previously flown into space on a first test flight in 2014, when it was launched by a “Delta 4” rocket, and it made two orbits around the Earth, especially to test its heat shield.
But this time, the capsule will return from a much further distance, and when returning, it will have to endure the Earth’s atmosphere in much more difficult conditions, with a speed of approximately 40,000 kilometers per hour and a temperature “equivalent to half the heat on the sun,” according to what was announced in a press conference. Mike Sarafin, the mission assigned to NASA.
In addition to this first objective, the mission should demonstrate the craft’s ability to operate in deep space and the ability to retrieve it after landing on the ocean at the end of the journey.
And after it was scheduled earlier this year, the launch of “Artemis 1” was postponed to finish testing on the launch pad last June.
The mission “Artemis 2” is still scheduled for the year 2024, and this will be the first manned mission within the program, but it will not land on the moon, but will conduct a flight in its orbit.
As for landing on the moon, it is scheduled to take place through the “Artemis 3” mission scheduled for 2025 at the earliest, 53 years after the last human landing on the moon in 1972 with the “Apollo 17” mission.
Artemis 1, formerly known as Exploration Mission-1, will be the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems, as the Orion spacecraft will blast off on the world’s most powerful rocket and fly farther than any spacecraft ever designed for humans.
It will travel 280,000 miles from Earth, and thousands of miles behind the Moon over a mission that takes about four to six weeks, and will stay in space longer than any astronaut ship has done without docking to a space station and returning home faster and hotter than ever before.
“This is a mission that’s really going to do what isn’t done and learn the unknown,” Mission Director Mike Sarafin said at a press conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
NASA’s new giant rocket, the SLS, and the Orion spacecraft will launch from Cape Canaveral, a state-of-the-art NASA spaceport at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Weighing nearly six million pounds to orbit, the rocket, propelled by a pair of five boosters and four RS-25 engines, will reach its greatest air power period in ninety seconds.
As the spacecraft orbits the Earth, it will spread its solar arrays and give Orion the big thrust needed to leave Earth orbit and travel toward the Moon, and from there, Orion will separate from the temporary cryogenic thrust stage in about two hours after launch.
As Orion continues on its way from Earth orbit to the Moon, it will be propelled by a service module provided by the European Space Agency, which will provide the spacecraft’s main propulsion system and power (plus air and water for future astronauts), and Orion will pass through the Van Allen belts. radioactive, and fly through the constellation of GPS satellites and over communications satellites in Earth’s orbit.
To speak with the mission controller in Houston, Orion will switch from NASA’s tracking and data relay satellite system and communicate through the Deep Space Network, and from here, Orion will continue to demonstrate its unique design for navigating, communicating and operating in a deep space environment.
The trip to the moon will take several days, during which engineers will evaluate the spacecraft’s systems and correct its course when needed.
Orion will fly about 62 miles (100 km) above the moon’s surface, and then the lunar gravitational force will be used to push Orion into a new, deep orbit backwards, or vice versa, orbiting about 40,000 miles (70,000 km) from the moon.
The spacecraft will remain in this orbit for about six days to collect data and allow mission controllers to evaluate the spacecraft’s performance. During this time, Orion will move in a direction around the Moon back from the direction in which the Moon is traveling around Earth.
For the return trip to Earth, Orion will make another close flyby that will take the spacecraft about 60 miles from the lunar surface, and the spacecraft will use another precisely timed servo launch from Europe in conjunction with the moon’s gravity to accelerate it.
The Earth-return maneuver will set the spacecraft on its path back toward Earth and re-enter our planet’s atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour (11 kilometers per second), resulting in temperatures of around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).
After about three weeks and a total distance of more than 1.3 million miles, the mission will end with testing Orion’s ability to safely return to Earth as the spacecraft makes a precise landing within sight of a rescue ship off the coast of Baja, California.
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