“It is a small step for a man, but a great leap for humanity.” The iconic phrase marked the arrival of man on the Moon, on July 20, 1969, a feat led by Nasa astronaut Neil Armstrong, who together with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, formed part of the Apollo 11 mission.
More than 50 years laterthe man will again seek to perch about the natural satellite: tonight NASA launches the Artemis I mission that will mark the return of humanity to the Moon.
Artemis I will be the first in a series of missions that seek to return humans to the Moon step. The first will be launched -weather permitting- tonight, although still without a crew, giving way to other successive missions with the ultimate goal of returning astronauts to the surface of the Moon and enable a long-term human presence for decades to come.
The mission will be launched in the new lunar megarocket SLS (Space Launch System)on top of which it carries the Orion capsule and its European service module, which received launch authorization as of August 29 from the Kennedy Space Center in FloridaUSA
José Maza, astronomer and National Prize for Exact Sciences, points out that we are about to to witness a milestone in the history of astronautics: “The human being will return to the Moon, we will go in August for the first time on a trip that will eventually take women and men to establish a moon base at the south pole of the satellite, near the crater Shackleton”.
María Teresa Ruiz, also an astronomer and winner of the National Prize for Exact Sciences, says that Going to the Moon is of great importance to advance in the knowledge of our Solar System and the Universe in general, “since we know many things about our satellite, but only from the distance where we are. We don’t have detailed information on many processes that might be surprising.”
For now, Maza adds, “It is the first part of the Artemis project, which will circle the Moon two or three times, and then undock the Orion capsule, which will carry the astronauts. It is a comprehensive preparation for the trip to the Moon, which will begin now. It is expected that in about two more years we will be able to see human beings there again. It’s fantastic”.
Natalia Inostroza, director of the Astrochemistry & Astrophysics Nucleus of the Autonomous University, considers that the most important thing is that since the year 72, there has been no other manned mission to the moon, for which the satellite is stepped on again after 50 years, “which will also serve to demolish myths as to why NASA had not been to the Moon before. In fact, in Greek mythology, Artemis is the sister of Apollo, so this journey is very similar to its predecessor. The Artemisa I mission is the first of three voyages.”
The main objectives of Artemis I are to demonstrate Orion systems in a spaceflight environment and ensure safe re-entry, descent, splashdown and recovery before the first crewed flight called Artemis II, NASA reported on August 5.
Another milestone to highlight is the inclusion of women, in fact, nine of the 18 members of Artemis I are of that gender, and it will also be the first time that a woman steps on the Moon, says Inostroza. “Now, in scientific terms, the team will carry out its research in the area of the lunar south pole, which has not been explored before, and it will be based on a general mapping of water, since new components will be searched for in the frozen water that exists. Also, it is intended to occupy this station as a springboard for manned trips to Mars”Add.
The duration of the mission has been fixed between four and six weekswith a route of 2.1 million kilometers, with several orbits to the Earth and the Moon in its journey.
Depending on the release date, the Artemis I mission will last between 39 and 42 days, agency officials said. During that time, NASA will be able to assess how the Orion capsule is doing in space ahead of its first manned flight, Artemis II. whose launch is scheduled for 2024.
The mission has managed to pass crucial tests: in June, the gigantic rocket that will allow the project, called Space Launch System (SLS) and who will be in charge of carrying Orion Ship, was moved to the launch ramp for its first fuel testswhich were carried out successfully.
The space agency managed to fully refuel for the first time its SLS mega rocket and activate the crucial countdown to 29 seconds before launch, in tests carried out at Cape Canaveral.
Due to the expectation that this return to the Moon has generated, the space agency began selling packages to visualize the historic takeoff, the first unmanned launch around the moon since the early 1970s. Guests who wish to see the historic launch from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex they can choose from three different viewing packages. Prices range from $99 to $250.
“The Moon at some point is going to be a place of exploration, experimentation and study. The possibility of creating a telescope on the dark side of the Moon has been considered for a long time. That poses a series of advantages and disadvantages, but there are certain steps that the human being will continue to take”, adds the astronomer of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Catholic University, Gaspar Galaz.
The Artemis project is also key in future expeditions through the Universe. The main objective that is considered is to reach Mars with a manned mission. “This new challenge is going to make us learn important things, of how to launch this mission to the Moon and to see what this mission would be like if it visited other planets or asteroids. This has to be done step by step, and definitely the Moon is the first step. It is very exciting that this is happening during these days”, Ruiz details in this regard.
This frenzy has generated that the hotels in the area surrounding Cape Canaveral are already sold out. At least 100 thousand people are expected to watch the launch. Standing 322 feet tall, it promises to be the largest and most powerful rocket launched from the Florida Space Coast in years, bringing with it a level of excitement to match.
The Space Coast is no stranger to launch day crowds. During the space shuttle era that lasted until 2011, half a million or more visitors sometimes flooded the area, occupying hotel rooms and filling local businesses.