December 9, 2022

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NASA’s second attempt to launch the mega-rocket to the moon

After a failed first attempt at the beginning of the week, NASA will try again on Saturday to take off the mega-rocket to the Moon, for a test mission that launches a new program, Artemis, 50 years after the last Apollo flight, writes

Tens of thousands of spectators hope that their wait will be rewarded with an impressive show from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida: the orange and white SLS rocket, the most powerful in the world, reports AFP.

Takeoff is scheduled for 14:17 local time (18:17 GMT) and will be possible in the next two hours in case of technical problems.

Weather conditions are 60% favorable at the start of this launch window, then gradually improve to 80%.

“Our team is ready, it’s getting better with every test,” Jeremy Parsons, in charge of ground equipment, said on Friday. If the conditions are met, “it is clear that we will take off”.

In case of a new impediment on Saturday, the takeoff could possibly be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday. Then it will be necessary to wait until September 19 at the earliest, due to the positions of the Earth and the Moon.

Mission Artemis 1

The purpose of this uncrewed mission, called Artemis 1, is to check whether the Orion capsule, atop the rocket, is safe to carry astronauts there in the future.
NASA is betting this time on establishing a sustainable human presence there, with the goal of undertaking a trip to Mars.

During this long weekend in the USA, up to 400,000 people are expected to witness the take-off, especially from the surrounding beaches.

The rocket’s tanks will be fed with cryogenic fuel – around three million liters of hydrogen and liquid oxygen – in the morning.

On Monday, a leak was detected at this stage, before an engine cooling problem caused the launch to be cancelled. NASA has since worked to resolve these issues.

If successful, two minutes after liftoff, the thrusters will fall into the Atlantic. After eight minutes, the main floor will detach in turn. Then, after about an hour and a half, the capsule will be propelled from the upper deck to the Moon, taking several days to reach.

The trip is expected to take about six weeks. Orion will venture as far as 40,000 miles behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft to date.

Artemis 1’s primary purpose is to test the capsule’s heat shield, the largest ever built. When returning to the Earth’s atmosphere, it will have to withstand a speed of 40,000 km/h and a temperature half as hot as that of the surface of the Sun.

In total, the ship has to travel 2.1 million kilometers until it lands in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA initially counted on a first launch in 2017 for SLS and will invest more than $90 billion in its new lunar program by the end of 2025, according to a public audit.

The name Artemis was chosen after a female figure, the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo – in response to the Apollo program that sent only men to the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972.

This time, NASA hopes to send the first person of color and the first woman to the moon. NASA’s first launch director, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, will kick off Saturday’s launch.

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