Space: NASA is about to (re)reach the Moon… 4 things you need to know about the Artemis mission


On Monday at 14:30 Paris time, the Artemis mission will begin its first trip to the Moon, with the aim of allowing man to return to our satellite in the short term. Fifty years after Apollo’s last flight, it’s time for Artemis to take over: the world’s most powerful rocket is set to make its maiden flight on Monday, August 27 from Florida, and will launch the American program at the same time. to return to the moon. The Dépêche details the main information you need to know about this lunar reconquest. A historic mission It is true that this is a test flight, with no crew on board. But for NASA, which has been preparing for this liftoff for more than a decade, the event is highly symbolic. It must embody the future of the space agency and prove that it can still compete, especially against the ambitions of China or SpaceX. Around Cape Canaveral, hotels are sold out, with between 100,000 and 200,000 people expected to attend the show, scheduled for Monday at 8:33 am local time (2:33 pm Paris time). The SLS in the NASA computer-generated image While the Apollo program allowed only white men to walk on the Moon, the Artemis program aims to send the first woman and the first person of color. After this first mission, Artemis 2 will take astronauts into orbit around the Moon, without landing there. That honor will be reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, scheduled for 2025 at the earliest, from the Kennedy Space Center. Since it went live, “you can feel the excitement, the energy has gone up a notch, it’s really palpable,” center director Janet Petro said at a news conference. The purpose of this mission, called Artemis 1, is to test the SLS rocket (for Space Launch System) in real conditions, and the Orion capsule on top, where astronauts will take place in the future. For this time, there are only dummies on board, equipped with sensors to record vibrations and radiation levels. One of the dummies that will be embarked by Artemis 1. NASA’s onboard cameras will allow us to follow this journey of 42 days in total. In the program there is a spectacular selfie with the Earth and the Moon in the background. Once in orbit, Orion will orbit the Moon once and a half (380,000 km away), venturing back as far as 64,000 km, further than any other habitable spacecraft to date. Computer generated image showing the Orion capsule in orbit around the Moon. NASA The main objective is to test its thermal shield, which on its return to the Earth’s atmosphere will have to withstand a speed of nearly 40,000 km/h, and a temperature half as hot as the surface of the Sun. A technical challenge… and uncertainties Thousands of people contributed to this mission, across the 50 American states and several European countries. All space enthusiasts are now on the lookout for the weather, which can be capricious this time of year. For example, take-off cannot take place in the rain. On Monday, the shooting window is extended to two hours, and reserve dates are scheduled for September 2nd or 5th. Apart from this uncontrollable factor, everything is ready: NASA officials have given the go-ahead for liftoff after a final detailed inspection. Which doesn’t mean everything will be fine in flight, they warned. “We’re doing something incredibly difficult and it has inherent risks,” said Mike Sarafin, the mission manager. Despite numerous preliminary tests, the various elements of the capsule and the rocket (which is not reusable) will fly together for the first time. That could hold surprises. NASA has promised to push the vehicle to its limits. The mission will continue, for example, even if Orion’s solar panels don’t deploy as planned, a risk not taken with a crew. But a total failure would still be devastating, for a rocket with a huge budget (4.1 billion per launch, according to a public audit) and late arrival (ordered by the US Congress in 2010, with a liftoff originally planned for 2017). The Moon before Mars But why, exactly, redo what has already been done? This time, the Moon will only be a step towards Mars. Unlike the one-off Apollo missions, the goal of Artemis is to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon, with the construction of a space station in orbit around it (Gateway) and a base on the surface. All the technologies needed to send humans to the Red Planet must be tested there. And Gateway will serve as a stopover and refueling point before this long journey of at least a few months. “I think (the Artemis program) will inspire even more than Apollo did,” said Bob Cabana, a former astronaut who is now NASA’s associate administrator. “It’s going to be absolutely amazing.”
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