NASA launches new mega-rocket to fire spacecraft around the Moon

Nasa is finally about to launch its new mega rocketfilming an Orion spacecraft designed for astronauts around the moon, later this month.

In an effort to bring astronauts back to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972, NASA has spent 17 years and around $50 billion developing the Space Launch System (SLS) and his Orion spacecraft.

The new SLS light rocket is taller than the Statue of Liberty, at 23 stories, with the spacecraft secured at the top. Four car-sized engines and two rocket boosters should give it enough thrust to push Orion all the way around the moon – further than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown. This is where NASA’s first SLS mission, called Artemis I, takes him.

When launched on August 29, the SLS rocket should deliver the Orion spacecraft on a trajectory to circle the Moon and return to Earth. There is no one on board, since the rocket has never flown before. But if the spacecraft successfully completes its mission, NASA plans to place astronauts in the Orion module for another trip around the moon, then land them on its surface using SpaceX. Spatialship in 2025.

the illustration shows a spacecraft with wings of solar panels flying past on the other side of the moon with the earth in the distance

An illustration of the Orion spacecraft circling the moon.


This is just the beginning of the Artemis program planned by NASA, in which it aims to install a space station in the orbit of the moon and establish a permanent base on the lunar surface. Eventually, NASA plans to launch astronauts from the moon to Mars.

For these interplanetary ambitions to materialize, the SLS must fly as intended. The next launch is the first test of all its capabilities.

the illustration shows the orange space launch system rocket take off

An illustration of the Space Launch System taking off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida.


If the weather is clear enough and no last-minute technical issues arise, the SLS rocket is expected to fire up its engines, shake the ground, and lift off the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. , at 8:33 a.m. ET. August 29.

After passing through the thickest parts of the atmosphere, the rocket booster is expected to fall, leaving its upper stage to give the Orion spacecraft a final push towards the moon.

If all goes well from here, Orion will travel a total distance of approximately 1.3 million kilometers more than 42 days. It will approach up to 60 miles above the lunar surface, allowing lunar gravity to launch it 40,000 miles beyond the moon. It’s farther into deep space than any spacecraft designed for human passengers has ever traveled.

As it loops back, Orion will again approach the moon to get a gravitational pull towards Earth.

Map of the Artemis 1 mission.

Map of the Artemis I mission.


Scientists will assess how future astronauts will experience the stresses of space by measuring the amount of cosmic radiation the dummies aboard the Orion capsule endured during the test flight. The mission will also launch several CubeSatsor miniature satellites, with scientific missions.

However, NASA’s primary goal with Artemis I is to test all functions of the launch and spaceflight system – including Orion’s communications and navigation systems and its heat shield, which must withstand a drop. fiery in the earth’s atmosphere 25,000 miles per hour in temperatures reaching 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit – before risking human lives in future missions.

three red and white striped parachutes above a spaceship landing in the ocean

The Orion spacecraft parachutes during a test on December 5, 2014.


Orion is due to head for Earth, zip through the atmosphere and launch parachutes to crash land off San Diego on October 10.

If the uncrewed Orion spacecraft circles the moon and returns without a hitch, the next SLS mission will carry astronauts to the same roundabout.

“It’s now the Artemis generation,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a press briefing Aug. 3. “We were in the Apollo generation, but it’s a new generation, it’s a new kind of astronaut. And to all of us who look at the moon, dreaming of the day when humanity will return to the lunar surface , folks, here we are. We’re going back and this journey, our journey, begins with Artemis I.”

orion spacecraft sls artemis 1 lunar mission

An artist’s illustration shows the Orion spacecraft blasting off to the moon during the Artemis I mission.


NASA expects Artemis II to repeat the flight of Artemis I, this time carrying a crew of four on a 10 day job. This flight is currently scheduled for the end of 2024.

Artemis III would be NASA’s first time landing astronauts on the moon since 1972, and the first time in history that a woman and a person of color have walked on the moon.

“NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon,” Nelson said during the briefing, adding, “In these increasingly complex missions, astronauts will live and work in deep space.”

Eventually, NASA plans to set up a base on the lunar surface and mine resources there, like water, to pave the way for the first human mission to Mars.

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