What Is Artemis I, The Moon Mission NASA Plans To Launch?
With the rocket project, NASA aims to ferry humans to-and-from the moon, 50 years since the launch of Apollo 11.
Back in July 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was launched from Cape Kennedy carrying Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin into space. Hundred and nine hours later, Armstrong took humankind's first step onto the moon, followed by "Buzz" Aldrin, 20 minutes later. With "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind", the trio became the first in history to reach the moon.
More than 50 years since the Apollo 11 mission, NASA is set to launch the rocket project Artemis I for a new mission to the moon. While the giant Space Launch System (SLS) was supposed to take off from NASA's Kennedy Complex in Florida on August 29, it has been delayed indefinitely because of an engine bleed.
What does the project aim for with this test flight and who are the crew members for this experiment? Let's take a look.
What Is The Artemis I?
The Artemis I will be the first integrated flight test of NASA's deep space exploration system: the Orion CM-002 spacecraft, and the SLS rocket with the ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center, located in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The rocket will be an uncrewed flight test, aiming to provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, further extending humankind's existence to the moon and beyond.
The project is estimated to last around a total of 26 to 42 days after the spacecraft is launched on the most powerful rocket. Upon success, the Orion CM-002 will fly farther than any other spacecraft has ever flown in human history.
During the mission's journey, the Orion would travel 280,000 miles from Earth, and go 40,000 miles past the far side of the moon.
According to Artemis I mission manager Mike Sarafin, "This is a mission that truly will do what hasn't been done and learn what isn't known. It will blaze a trail that people will follow on the next Orion flight, pushing the edges of the envelope to prepare for that mission."
What Will The Launch Process Be Like?
Artemis I will begin with the Orion and the Space Launch System getting blasted off from Launch Complex 39B at the modernized spaceport of Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket will take off from Cape Canaveral.
During the lift-off, the SLS rocket will produce a thrust of 8.8 million pounds to lift a vehicle weighing almost six million pounds to orbit beyond low Earth while carrying crew or cargo to the moon and further.
The SLS comes equipped with a pair of five-segment boosters and four RS-25 engines that will enable the rocket to reach the greatest atmospheric force within 90 seconds. Post jettisoning the boosters, service module panels and launch abort system, the core stage engines will shut down. The core stage will later separate from the spacecraft.
After completing an orbit of Earth, the SLS will deploy the solar arrays and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS). This would provide a big push for Orion to leave the Earth's orbit and head toward the moon.
Once the Orion separates from the ICPS within about two hours after launch. The ICPS will later deploy a number of CubeSats, small satellites that will perform experiments and technology demonstrations.
The Guardian reported that the Orion will carry a few slivers of moon rocks collected by the crew of Apollo 11 back in 1969 along with a bolt from one of their rocket engines salvaged from the sea.
What Does NASA Aim To Achieve With Artemis I?
The Artemis I is perhaps the most powerful rocket mission by NASA. According to the Guardian's report, US taxpayers are estimated to churn out around $93 billion to fund the programme. But what are the overall objectives of the Artemis I mission?
For starters, the mission is an attempt to further explore the moon and eventually Mars. With Artemis I, NASA scientists would be examining if the moon can be a temporary stoppage for astronauts during space missions before springboarding further to Mars.
According to NASA, astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the moon that are required for lunar surface missions. From here, NASA will study the possibilities of exploration to other destinations farther from Earth.
Meanwhile, on the second flight, NASA plans to send crew members toward a different trajectory, testing Orion's critical system with humans aboard. But the test flight will be an uncrewed flight test. So how is NASA aiming to study human situations for further human missions on the moon?
Mannequins. NASA is sending a crew of three mannequins that will replicate human existence in the Orion spaceship. In comparison to Apollo's capsule, the Orion capsule is more spacious, with seats for four astronauts, according to the Guardian.
The primary mannequin or "commander" in this mission was named Moonikin Campos in a public voting contest where more than 300,000 votes were counted with names honouring NASA figures, programmes or astronomical objects.
A full-sized dummy wearing an orange spaceflight suit, Commander Moonikin Campos is a tribute to the late electrical power subsystem manager Arturo Campos, who is hailed as a NASA hero for bringing the Apollo 13 safely back to earth.
The mannequin would be equipped with two radiation sensors, additional sensors under its headrest and more sensors behind the seat for recording acceleration and vibration data.
The data retrieved from Moonikin's experience will provide NASA with further information for astronauts of Artemis II where the mission will see humans heading to the moon after more than 50 years.
Commander Campos would be joined by two female-bodied model human torsos (called phantoms) on board, namely Zohar and Helga. Zohar was named by the Israel Space Agency and Helga was named by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
The female mannequins are made of material simulating human tissues - head and female torsos but no limbs. Both Zohar and Helga would be supporting the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE), an experiment to provide data on radiation levels during lunar missions.
After completing the mission, the spacecraft will head towards the trajectory back to Earth, entering the planet's atmosphere at 25,000 miles. This speed would be producing temperatures of around 2,760°c. The Orion would be making a precision landing within the eyesight of the recovery ship, off the coast of Baja California.
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