The POT he’s finally just weeks away from launching the first flight of his massive new moon rocket. It is the first uncrewed test flight of the lunar program. Artemis NASA, whose goal is to return humans to the Moon during this decade, and the leaders of the space agency are extremely excited about that.
“Prepare for Artemis I; it is a fact!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted Tuesday after the space agency’s moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), arrived at the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The SLS and the Orion spacecraft it carries “will soon embark on a test flight that will go further than any spacecraft built for humans has ever gone,” he added.
NASA plans to launch the Artemis I mission, as the test flight is called, at 8:33 am ET on August 29, with backup launch opportunities on September 2 and 5.
“It feels surreal, because we’ve been anticipating this moment for so long, and it’s finally here,” he told The Independent Laura Forcyzk, founder of the space analysis agency Astralytica and author of the book Becoming Off-Worldly: Learning from Astronauts to Prepare for Your Spaceflight Journey.
But if NASA officials and space buffs are excited about launching the SLS into the sky, it’s not clear that the general American public shares their enthusiasm.
“Most of the United States hasn’t been paying attention to NASA’s plan to get humans back to the moon,” Forcyzk said.
But she hopes that will change, and soon.
The SLS, or the largest rocket to ever fly, is a superheavy launch vehicle “that we haven’t seen since the Saturn V,” says Forczyk.
Standing 322 feet (98 meters) tall, with a core stage flanked by two solid rocket boosters in a configuration similar to the now-retired Space Shuttle, the SLS is slightly shorter than the Saturn V, but more powerful, since it generates 8.8 million pounds of thrust compared to 7.6 million for the Saturn V.
“It’s going to be something that will blow people’s minds if they see it in person. It will be spectacular,” Forczyk said. “I think it will be bigger than just a spot of light on CNN. I think it will be something that will make the world pay attention.”
And if the world continues to pay attention, NASA has quite a show in store.
For the Artemis I mission, the SLS will launch the Orion vehicle, the 21st century equivalent of the Apollo spacecraft, to, around, beyond and back from the Moon over the course of a 42-day mission. Orion carries with it lunar science experiments and cameras to document its journey to the Moon in higher definition than the Apollo missions had.
“Rockets are just transportation. And what do they transport? They transport science. They transport technology,” Forcyzk said. “It will serve to carry out radiation tests and record observations of the Moon.”
Radiation levels are just some of the measurements Orion will take through three mannequins aboard Artemis I, each designed to study how flight might affect human astronauts. That’s because human astronauts are the next step.
Following a successful Artemis I mission, NASA plans to follow up with Artemis II in May 2024, in which up to four astronauts will fly an Artemis I-like path 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, Gen Z and the next alpha generation — have never seen a human being set foot on another planet, Forczyk says, herself included, and believes a contemporary mission to the Moon will capture the attention of the planet. world in a way that large segments of the population cannot even imagine.
In the United States and the world, several generations have grown up who have never seen a human being set foot outside this world, Forczyk said, and Artemis I is the first step in a journey that will put human spaceflight back on the horizon. front and center of the world’s imagination.
“If we go back to May 2020, people were very excited about the launch of SpaceX to the ISS (International Space Station), since it was the first time that the Americans returned to orbit [por su cuenta] since the retirement of the space shuttle,” he said. The astronauts Americans flew to the ISS aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for nine years after the shuttle retired in 2011, but “returning to the moon is an even more significant time span. It is an even more monumental achievement because so much time has passed, since 1972.”
NASA will continue to fly additional Artemis missions through the late 2020s, eventually building a lunar-orbiting space station and outposts at the Moon’s South Pole. It’s a program designed to test technologies and operational strategies that NASA wants to develop for future planetary missions, such as a manned mission to Mars sometime in the 2040s.
“We want to open up the rest of the solar system so that we can continue to explore our natural environment around us,” Forczyk said.
But the grand visions of subsequent Artemis 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: just like the james webb space telescope, which was also delayed like the SLS and Orion and was more expensive than originally anticipated, NASA has taken its time to make sure there are 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 also very criticized in terms of the amounts of money it spends. So, if all the attention is focused here, you have to justify those expenses. You have to make sure that politicians and the public know that their tax money will pay off.”