First steps to return to the Moon tomorrow

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Aug. 28, 2022—Countdown clocks are ticking for NASA’s next launch to the Moon which begins tomorrow morning if the weather holds.

A two-hour launch window for the Artemis I rocket will open at 8:30 a.m. EDT to set Orion on its path skyward.

This will be the first step toward placing humans on the moon since Apollo 17’s mission in 1972.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force Space Launch Delta 45 predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at that time.

Artemis I is an uncrewed test flight designed to lay the foundation for a sustained long-term presence on and around the Moon, according to NASA.

Moon missions are the first steps toward the larger goal of traveling to Mars. Artemis I is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars, according to NASA.

Flight controllers in NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston rehearse launch operations ahead of the Artemis I mission. (NASA photos)

Like space missions of the 1960s and 1970s, Artemis will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and be controlled at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Artemis I will be the first flight test of the deep space exploration system consisting of the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center, according to NASA.

Artemis I will lift off from Launch Complex 39B with 8.8 million pounds of thrust provided by the most powerful rocket in the world, the SLS, launching Orion 280,000 miles from Earth, several thousand miles beyond the Moon, farther than any human spacecraft has ever flown, according to NASA.

Once it reaches the Moon, Orion will travel about 60 miles above the lunar surface.

Artemis will return to Earth at a re-entry speed of Mach 32—24,500 mph—and temperatures of more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, faster and hotter than any spacecraft has before, according to NASA. One of the goals of re-entry is to test the head shield, which was the leading cause behind Space Shuttle Columbia’s explosion upon re-entry to Earth in 2003.

The mission will take about three weeks to complete. NASA has it down to the minute: 42 days, 3 hours, 20 minutes. Splashdown is scheduled for Oct. 10 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.

By mission complete, Orion will have traveled approximately 1.3 million miles.

The primary goals for Artemis I are to demonstrate Orion’s space systems in a spaceflight environment and ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown and recovery prior to the first flight crew on Artemis II.

Artemis II, scheduled for 2023, will fly with a crew of four astronauts and will travel 4,600 miles beyond the far side of the Moon. Both Artemis missions will prepare the way for Artemis III’s two-person lunar landing by 2024, according to NASA. Artemis III’s Orion crew will include the first woman and first person of color to step on the lunar surface.

Artemis I Mission Patch

The triangular shape represents the three main programs that comprise NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Systems: Orion, SLS and Exploration Ground Systems. It’s classic shape dates back to the space shuttle era.

The silver highlight surrounding this patch gives nod to the silver Orion spacecraft. The orange rocket and flames represent the firepower of SLS.

The setting is historic Launch Pad 39B, represented by the three lightning towers.

The red and blue mission trajectories encompassing the white full Moon emphasizes the hard work, tradition, and dedication of this American led-mission while also embracing NASA’s international partnership with European Space Agency as both agencies forge a new future in space

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