The countdown begins for the launch of NASA’s Artemis I mission, the first step towards returning humans to the Moon.
The Artemis I launch is the first time a rated spacecraft has been sent to the Moon since Apollo 17 last put boots on the Moon almost 50 years ago.
The mission is the first-ever launch of both the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion crew module that will carry future crews to the Moon.
Artemis I was supposed to launch earlier this year and was even rolled out to the launch pad, but a string of problems found during testing meant it was returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building for repair.
However, this time both the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft have passed their checks with flying colors and are ready to begin their journey toward the Moon.
When will Artemis I launch?
The Artemis I launch date is currently 29 August 2022 and the launch time is a 2-hour window beginning at 08:33 EST (12:22 UTC, 13:33 BST).
Artemis I has to launch during this window to ensure it reaches the Moon without being ‘eclipsed’ by longer than 90 minutes at any point during the journey.
If bad weather or some other delay prevents the launch of Artemis I on 29 August, then the next launch windows will be on 2 September and 5 September.
The launch will be live-streamed below and promises to be quite an event with appearances by actors Keke Palmer, Chris Evans, and Jack Black (whose mother, Judith Love Choen, helped create the abort-guidance system which helped save Apollo 13).
How to watch the Artemis I launch live online
You can watch the historic launch of the Artemis I mission live online via NASA TV below:
Where is the Artemis I launch?
Artemis I is launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA.
The Space Launch System will be taking off from launch pad 39B, the same place where all of the Apollo lunar landing missions left Earth.
The rocket and Orion spacecraft were assembled together into what’s called the stack in the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building.
It was first taken to the launch pad back in March 2022 but was returned to the VAB in July for repairs.
It was rolled out for what should be the final time on 18 August.
Each time, it took around 10 hours to complete the 6.4km journey on top of NASA’s Crawler Transporter – an enormous machine weighing three million kg with a top speed of just 1km/hr.
How long will Artemis I take to get to the Moon?
After launch, Artemis I will first enter Earth’s orbit.
Once all systems have been checked out, the upper stage, known as the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) will conduct its trans-lunar injection burn, propelling Orion towards the Moon.
Burn completed, the ICPS will detach, and Orion will spend the next week or so traveling approximately 385,000 km to the Moon.
It will enter into a retrograde orbit – moving in the opposite direction to the Moon’s spin – that comes 97km from the surface at the closest approach before traveling out 64,000km from the far side of the Moon, beating the previous distance record set by Apollo 13 by 48,000km.
- Artemis I launches from Kennedy Space Center, Florida
- The spacecraft enters low-Earth orbit and deploys the solar array
- Separation of Orion from the rocket. The propulsion stage takes a dotted grey line to a disposal orbit around the Sun
- Trans-lunar injection propels the Orion spacecraft towards the Moon
- First flyby, 100km from the surface
- Orion enters a distant retrograde orbit (DRO) around the Moon
- At its furthest point, Orion is 61,155km from the Moon’s surface
- The Orion spacecraft leaves a distant retrograde orbit (DRO)
- Second flyby of the lunar surface
- Thrusters fire to send Orion on its return trajectory to Earth
- The Orion service module separates from the crew module
- Atmospheric entry at 39,500km/h
- Orion splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, with recovery by the US Navy
What will Artemis I do when it gets to the Moon?
Artemis I will stay on the Moon for several weeks – far longer than any planned lunar missions – to fully test all the systems on board Orion.
Artemis I does not have any humans onboard, but it does have, two female-bodied model torsos – called Zohar and Helga – that will test the effects of deep-space radiation on women for the first time.
Meanwhile a full male-bodied manikin, Commander Moonikin Campos – is testing the vibration dampening system for the astronaut seats.
There will also be a fourth ‘astronaut’ onboard, hailing from the UK – a Shaun the Sheep doll (hopefully he remembered to bring the crackers).
Will Artemis I return to Earth?
Once it’s done in lunar orbit, Artemis I will take another week to return to Earth to test the spacecraft’s landing system.
Upon re-entering the atmosphere Artemis I will be traveling around 40,000km/h.
First, it will use aerobraking to slow down, heating the protective heat shield to 2,800ºC.
When it is 7.6km above the Pacific Ocean, its 11 parachutes will deploy in sequence, slowing it to just 32km/h by the time it splashes down just off the coast of San Diego, where a ship will be waiting to recover it.
The mission will last 42 days, during which time it will travel 2.1 million kilometers.
What missions will follow Artemis I?
If Artemis I is successful, then it will set the stage for Artemis II in 2024, the first crewed flight to the Moon since 1972.
The mission will take a crew of four on a much shorter trip around the Moon that won’t even enter lunar orbit.
Instead, it will spend just 10 days flying to and around the Moon before coming straight back to Earth.
Once this has been successful, it will finally be time for the landing mission, Artemis III in 2025.
This will also carry the human landing system, currently being developed by Space X, that will carry two crew members to the lunar surface.
Neither mission has announced its crew yet, but a team of 18 NASA astronauts has already been selected for the Artemis Team.
Alongside these will be several astronauts from the Canadian Space Agency, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and European Space Agency – whose active astronauts include the UK’s own Tim Peake.
What we do know is that at least one of the moonwalkers on Artemis III will be a woman, and either this or a future mission will also include the first person of color to walk on the Moon.
This article was reposted from Sky at Night Magazine
Original article by Ezzy Pearson