What you need to know about NASA’s Artemis 1 launch | Chemistry

fence banner reading "to go!" in front of the SLS rocket

Space launch system rocket on pad on August 17
NASA / Joel Kowski

NASA’s New Moon program is poised to break all kinds of records for human spaceflight. Named after the Greek goddess Artemis, twin sister of Apollo, the initiative will send the first woman and the first people of color to the Moon. If all goes according to plan, in 2025, these astronauts will be on the moon’s regolith (or dusty moon) since Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt walked there in December 1972. You will be the first human to set foot on the lunar soil.

In addition, the Artemis program establishes the first long-term human presence on the moon by placing a space station in orbit and building a base camp on the moon’s surface. These measures lay the groundwork for yet another first in the future of sending astronauts to Mars.

But before that happens, the space agency needs to test its equipment on a flight called Artemis 1. This would break its own record. As NASA’s massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket takes to the launch pad ahead of this historic mission, here’s what you need to know about this program that’s making waves around the world.

Where is Artemis 1 headed?

The 42-day Artemis 1 mission will test the Orion spacecraft, a lunar orbiting capsule that will one day carry a human crew there. The unmanned mission will begin from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Aug. 29 by 8:33 a.m. ET, with backup dates on Sept. 2 and He on Sept. 5.

Once in the atmosphere, Orion will begin in Earth’s orbit and fly into space powered by the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), a 45-foot-long cylindrical system with a single engine. As Orion flies toward the moon, a service module provided by the European Space Agency will correct course as necessary. The rover will make up to 1.5 revolutions in lunar orbit, setting a record for the furthest traveled rover capable of carrying a crew. Then, at just the right moment, the engine is started and the moon’s gravity is used to propel it toward the earth.

On October 10th, the spacecraft Orion will roar back into the atmosphere. Move at 10 km/s. This is the fastest re-entry of any capsule built for humans. A spacecraft and its heat shield must withstand temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is an important part of this test mission because NASA cannot artificially create these conditions on the ground. gizmodoof George Dvorsky. If she survives, Orion will land in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego within sight of the US Navy ships retrieving the spacecraft.

What’s so special about a rocket on a mission called Space Launch System?

SLS rocket on full moon

The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft are mounted on a mobile launcher in front of the full moon on June 14th.


The SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built. It is 32 stories tall and weighs about 6 million pounds. NASA contracted several companies to build it. Northrop Grumman worked on the booster, Aerojet Rocketdyne built the engine, and Boeing built the rocket’s orange core stage. The project cost about $23.8 billion and was criticized for being over budget.

When the SLS launches, it is propelled with about 8.8 million pounds of thrust. That’s more than the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions with 7.5 million pounds of thrust. gizmodo report. But when SpaceX’s Starship, currently under development, takes off, it will take the title of most powerful rocket with a whopping 17 million pounds of thrust, intended to carry people to deep space destinations. Still, “SLS is the only rocket capable of sending Orion, astronauts and cargo directly to the moon in one of her missions,” he said.

How else will this flight contribute to science?

Three mannequins sitting in the Orion spacecraft

Illustration of three mannequins on the Orion spacecraft

NASA / Lockheed Martin / DLR

No humans fly aboard Artemis 1, but three mannequins travel into deep space. Their mission is to test whether conditions inside the Orion spacecraft are safe for future astronaut crews. At the head of the capsule is his Moonikin Campos commander in test his dummy in an Orion Crew Survival System space suit. insiderof Paola Rosa Aquino. Sensors measure acceleration, vibration, and radiation to which Munikin is exposed, providing her NASA data on how the human crew will cope.

Two other mannequins, named Zohar and Helga, measure how cosmic radiation affects a woman’s body. The dummy is made of soft tissue, bone, and a slice of plastic that mimics the lungs. Each has her 5,600 sensors, which record information about the effects of radiation on the lungs, stomach, uterus, and bone marrow. Zohar wears a protective vest, but Helga does not.

This research is very important as NASA prepares to send the first woman to the Moon. “Women are generally at a higher risk of developing cancer because they have radiation-sensitive organs such as breast tissue and ovaries,” said Ramona Gaza, who leads the scientific team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Artemis 1 also carries 10 CubeSats, or shoebox-sized satellites that often contain materials for research. After giving Orion its first push, the ICPS will detach from the spacecraft and deploy these satellites to her three different locations between the Earth and the Moon. One of these CubeSats will use a solar sail to propel it to a near-Earth asteroid and photograph it. Another includes yeast to measure the effects of cosmic radiation on living cells. Other CubeSats study lunar ice with spectrometers, image the moon and spacecraft, test airbags in lunar crash landings, and investigate other research challenges.

Why was this mission so late?

SLS rocket behind water

Prior to its first flight tests, the SLS is on a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

NASA / Keegan Barber

Artemis 1 was originally planned for a 2016 launch. Orlando Sentinelof Richard Tribow. But many factors are complicating and delaying this goal, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at a media briefing last year. Production delays for both SLS and Orion, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the difficulty of obtaining sufficient funding from Congress have made this date unfeasible.

This year, NASA struggled with wet dress rehearsals, or practice runs, for its SLS rockets leading up to Monday’s launch. In April, Rocket failed her three wet dress rehearsal attempts. Various problems, such as vent valve failures and hydrogen leaks, prevented NASA from completing each test. flying magazineReported by Jeremy Kariuki of His fourth attempt in June finally succeeded. NASA mounted the rocket’s fuel tank and ran her 10-minute countdown to his T-29 seconds before launch. Despite another hydrogen leak during part of the rehearsal, NASA deemed the test a success.

What are the next steps?

Astronaut kneeling on the moon and picking up dust

An artist rendering of an astronaut on the moon during a future Artemis mission.


Artemis 1 will be followed by Artemis 2 and Artemis 3, and these missions will culminate in the astronauts once again walking on the moon. After this first test flight, Artemis 2 will take the crew on a lunar flyby, enter lunar orbit, and return in 8 to 10 days. The mission is now scheduled to launch in her 2024. If all goes according to plan, Artemis 3 is slated for her 2025. The mission will send a crew of astronauts to the moon for the first time in over 50 years.

Last week, NASA announced 13 possible lunar landing sites for Artemis 3 astronauts to explore. space dot comof Meghan Bartels. All around the Moon’s south pole, which scientists have prioritized for study. In the cold, permanently shaded environments of the polar regions, scientists believe that frozen water may be below the surface. Which of these sites will be your destination depends on the launch date.

The Artemis program is just the beginning of NASA’s Moon to Mars initiative. NASA wants the moon to be a pit stop to support astronauts on longer space missions. Artemis will set up the Lunar Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon that will be assembled in space and support future exploration. NASA also plans to set up his moon-based camp where astronauts can stay for long-term missions and test exploration methods that might be used on Mars.

Building on Artemis’ achievements, astronauts could walk the Red Planet within 20 years.

“Everything we do on the moon is for science,” said Kathy Korner, NASA’s deputy administrator. Wired‘s Ramin Skiva. “We are not just ‘flags and footprints’ as some people have mentioned. [Apollo]But it also aims to test all the systems that will ultimately be required to de-risk a manned mission to Mars. “

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