NASA’s Artemis launch is about to change the future of humanity in space

NASA’s Artemis launch is about to change the future of humanity in space

NASA’s Artemis launch is about to change the future of humanity in space

NASA Moon Rocket (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

NASA Moon Rocket (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Nasa is finally just weeks away from launching the first flight of its massive new Moon rocket. It’s the first unmanned test flight for Nasa’s Artemis Moon program, which aims to put humans back on the moon within the decade – and the space agency’s leadership is extremely excited about it.

“Get ready for Artemis I – we’re leaving!” Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted Tuesday after the space agency’s lunar rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), reached the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The SLS and the Orion spacecraft it carries will soon “embark on a test flight that goes further than any spacecraft built for humans has ever gone before,” he added.

Nasa plans to launch the Artemis I mission, as the test flight is called, as early as 8:33 a.m. EDT on August 29, with backup launch windows on September 2 and 5.

“It feels surreal, because we’ve been anticipating this moment for so long, and now it’s finally here,” Laura Forcyzk, the founder of space analytics firm Astralytica and author of the book, Becoming off-worldly: Learn from astronauts to prepare for your space journey, told The independent.

But if Nasa officials and space fanatics are excited about SLS blasting into the sky, it’s not clear that the American public shares their enthusiasm.

“Most of the United States has not paid attention to NASA’s plan to return humans to the moon,” Forcyzk said.

But she expects that to change, and soon.

The SLS will be the largest rocket ever to fly, a super-heavy launch vehicle “the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Saturn V,” Forczyk says.

Standing 322 feet tall, with a central core stage flanked by two solid rocket boosters in a configuration similar to the now-retired Space Shuttle, the SLS is somewhat shorter than the Saturn V but more powerful, generating 8.8 million pounds of thrust to the Saturn V’s 7, 6 million.

“It’s going to be something that blows people’s minds if they see it in person. It’s going to be spectacular,” Forczyk said. “I think it’s going to be bigger than just a blip on CNN. I think it’s going to be something that makes the world take into account.”

And if the world continues to pay attention, Nasa has quite a show planned for them.

Artemis I want to see SLS launch on the 21stSt century equivalent of the Apollo spacecraft, the Orion spacecraft, to, around, beyond and back from the Moon during a 42-day mission. Orion carries lunar science experiments and cameras to document its journey to the Moon in higher definition than the Apollo missions ever did.

“Rockets are just transport. And what does it transport? It is the transport of science. It’s transporting technology,” Forcyzk said. “It’s going to test for radiation and take observations of the moon.”

Radiation levels are just some of the measurements Orion will take through three mannequins on board Artemis I, each designed to study how the flight might affect human astronauts. That’s because human astronauts are the next step.

After a successful Artemis I mission, Nasa plans to follow up with Artemis II in May 2024, which will see as many as four astronauts fly a similar course to Artemis I around the moon.

In 2025, Artemis III will see Nasa land the first people on the moon since the 1970s, including the first woman and person of colour.

Several generations of people, millennials, Generation Z and the upcoming Generation Alpha, have never seen a human set foot on another world, Ms. Forczyk notes, including herself, and she believes a modern Moon mission will capture the world’s attention in a way that large parts of the population cannot imagine.

The United States, and the world, had now seen several generations grow up never having seen a human set foot on another world, Forczyk said, and Artemis I is the first step on a journey that will put human spaceflight front and center in the world’s imagination once again.

“If you remember back to May 2020, people were so excited about SpaceX launching people to the International Space Station, the first time Americans had gone back into orbit [on their own] since the retirement of the space shuttle, she said. American astronauts flew to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft for nine years after the shuttle retired in 2011, but “returning to the moon is an even bigger time gap. It’s an even more monumental achievement because it’s been so long since 1972.”

Nasa will continue to fly more Artemis missions through the late 2020s, eventually building a space station in lunar orbit and outposts at the Moon’s south pole. It’s a program designed to test out technologies and operational strategies Nasa wants to develop for future planetary missions, such as a crewed mission to Mars sometime in the 2040s.

“We want to open up the rest of the solar system so we can continue to explore our natural environment around us,” Forczyk said.

But the grand visions of the later Artemis missions and the eventual human mission to Mars all depend on a successful Artemis I test flight. It is possible that something could go wrong, but Ms. Forczyk does not think it is likely: Just like the James Webb space telescope, which, like SLS and Orion, was delayed and more expensive than originally expected, Nasa has taken the time to ensure that the agency got SLS right. Its future plans depend on it.

“All eyes are on the program,” she said. “NASA is a government agency that is well known and popular, but also heavily criticized for how much it spends. And then when all eyes are on this, you have to justify those expenses. You want to make sure that the politicians and the public know that their tax dollars will get good results.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.