Mark your calendars: NASA’s Artemis return to the Moon program could launch its first unmanned test flight on August 29, the agency said Wednesday.
Artemis-1 is the first in a series of missions as the United States seeks to return humans to the Moon, build a permanent presence there, and use lessons learned to plan a trip to Mars in the 2030s.
NASA Associate Administrator, Jim Free, told reporters the first window of possible launch dates for the Massive Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew capsule was August 29. September 2 and September 5.
The decision follows final ground tests at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, known as “wet suit drills”.
The last of these tests, conducted in June, met 90% of the team’s goal, and on Wednesday, Cliff Lanham, senior director of vehicle operations, said engineers has now replaced the faulty seals that caused the hydrogen leak on the SLS during final testing.
Artemis-1 is set to cruise around the far side of the Moon in a mission that will last four to six weeks – longer than any astronaut ship has taken without docking, before back home faster and hotter than any train before.
It will also deploy several small satellites called CubeSats to carry out experiments in space.
Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters: “Our first and primary goal is to demonstrate Orion’s heat shield in lunar re-entry conditions.”
When the capsule returns from the Moon, it will travel about 24,500 miles per hour (39,400 kilometers per hour) and experience temperatures as hot as half the Sun outside its heat shield.
The second goal was to demonstrate the flight worthiness of the rocket and its crew capsule as they performed all of their maneuvers during the mission.
Eventually, NASA will find a way to successfully take the Orion after the sensational incident and thoroughly test it.
Artemis-2 will be the first crewed test flight, orbiting the Moon but not landing, while Artemis-3 will see the first woman and person of color touch down on the Moon’s south pole. .
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