NASA plans new moon rocket paces 50 years after Apollo
US News: Nasa’s new moon rocket blasted off on its debut flight with three test dummies aboard early Wednesday, bringing the US, a big step.
NASA Moon Rocket
Despite being years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, NASA’s new moon rocket will soon debut in a high-stakes test flight before astronauts ascend to the lunar surface. Fifty years after NASA’s historic Apollo moon missions, a rocket measuring 322 feet (98 meters) in height will attempt to launch an unmanned capsule into lunar orbit.
If all goes according to plan, NASA hopes to land two humans on the Moon’s surface as soon as 2024, and from there they’ll be able to take an orbital tour of the Moon. The launch will occur on Monday morning at sunrise at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
NASA officials have warned that the six-week test flight is dangerous and could be halted early if something goes wrong. NASA moon rocket Administrator Bill Nelson told a press conference that the spacecraft would be subjected to “tests” that would “never be done with a crew on board” to ensure the crew’s safety. According to the institute’s retired founder from George Washington University, Bill Nelson says, they are betting a lot on this test. He warned that if something went wrong, it would be very difficult to make a comeback due to the escalating expenditures and long pauses between operations.
According to John Logsdon, “it is supposed to be the first step in a sustained program of human exploration of the moon, mars, and beyond.” The program’s total cost from its inception a decade ago until a lunar landing in 2025 is a staggering $93 billion, with this particular mission costing more than $4 billion alone. The Artemis program, named after Apollo’s mythological sister, is described as follows:
The Saturn V rockets that sent 24 Apollo astronauts to the Moon 50 years ago are much larger and bulkier in comparison to the new rocket. The 8.8 million pounds (4 million kilograms) of thrust it possesses makes it the most superior of its kind. SLS stands for “Space Launch System,” but Nelson says a more manageable alias is being considered.
Unlike the Saturn V, which relied on solid rocket boosters, the new rocket uses strap-on boosters repurposed from NASA’s space shuttles. Similar to the shuttle, the boosters will separate after two minutes, but unlike the shuttle, they will not be recovered from the Atlantic Ocean. The first stage, the core, will continue firing until it breaks up. The resulting debris will fall into the Pacific. The Orion capsule will be launched two hours after take-off and propelled toward the Moon by an upper stage.
Orion, one of the brightest constellations in the sky, inspired NASA’s high-tech, automated Orion capsule. It’s taller than Apollo’s capsule by 3 meters (11 feet), so it can accommodate four astronauts instead of three. To simulate the commander’s experience, a full-size dummy dressed in an orange flight suit will sit in the pilot’s seat while vibration and acceleration sensors are activated.
When measuring cosmic radiation, one of the biggest dangers of space travel, two other mannequins made of material simulating human tissue will do the job (heads and female torsos, but no limbs). A protective vest made in Israel is being tried out on one torso. Contrary to the rocket, Orion has already been launched; it completed two orbits of the Earth in 2014. This time, four wings will be used to attach the service module from the European Space Agency, which will provide thrust and solar power.
The Orion mission is designed to last for six weeks, from take-off in Florida to splashdown in the Pacific. This is twice as long as astronaut missions to put the systems through their paces. The Moon is approximately 240,000 miles (386,000 kilometers) away, so getting there will take nearly a week. The spacecraft will make a quick orbit of the Moon before entering a long-distance orbit with a far point of 38,000 miles away (61,000 kilometers).
When that happens, Orion will be further from Earth than Apollo by 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers). The mission’s end is where Orion will be tested, as it will slam into Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 25,000 mph (40,000 kph) before splashing down in the Pacific. Similar to the Apollo spacecraft, the heat shield can withstand re-entry temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,750 degrees Celsius). However, the cutting-edge design considers the increased speed and temperature of future Mars crews’ returns.
Numerous stowaways for use in deep space research have boarded the flight alongside three test dummies. A total of ten shoebox-sized satellites will detonate once Orion reaches a close enough distance to the Moon to cause an explosion. The so-called CubeSats were installed in the rocket over a year ago, and as the launch date was repeatedly pushed back, the batteries for half of them ran out of power and couldn’t be recharged.
Due to the low quality and high risk of these mini-satellites, NASA anticipates that some will fail. However, the CubeSats designed to measure radiation levels should function normally. An asteroid demonstration using solar sails is also safe to proceed with. In a salute to the past and the future, Orion will transport a bolt from one of Apollo 11’s rocket engines, recovered from the ocean floor a decade ago, and a few fragments of moon rock collected by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969.
Artemis versus Apollo
Even today, after more than 50 years, the Apollo program is widely regarded as NASA’s crowning achievement. It only took NASA eight years to go from launching Alan Shepard (the first astronaut) to the moon landing of Armstrong and Aldrin (both using technology developed in the 1960s). Although it was based on the successful but brief Constellation moon exploration program, Artemis has dragged on for more than ten years.
Between 1969 and 1972, a total of twelve Apollo astronauts spent no more than three days at a time on the Moon. For Artemis, NASA will select from a pool of 42 astronauts representing a wide range of backgrounds, and the duration of lunar stays will be increased to at least a week. In addition, building a permanent base on the Moon will pave the way for future human Mars exploration. Nelson, from NASA, has pledged to reveal the first Artemis moon crews once Orion has returned to Earth.
The Next Step Before we can send humans back to the Moon, there’s a long way to go. Soon after the second lunar orbiter is completed, in 2024 at the earliest, four astronauts will make a full lunar orbit and return. NASA plans to launch another four probes within the next year or so, with two of them landing on the lunar south pole.
NASA has contracted Elon Musk’s SpaceX to provide its Star ship spacecraft for the first Artemis moon landing because Orion does not come with its own lunar lander as the Apollo spacecraft. Two more private companies are now developing moonwalking suits. The futuristic-looking Star ship would dock with Orion on the Moon, allowing two astronauts to explore the lunar surface before returning to their capsule.