NASA has announced the first long-term test of Artemis I in preparation of expanding human existence to the Moon and beyond. Artemis I is the initial long-distance test for the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS). This will be the first time they have been launched together out of the Kennedy Space Center.
The Orion spacecraft has been worked on and tested for many years to make it economic and reusable. It has been to orbit many times and has brought supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) twice. The reusable parts save time, money, and natural resources. The spacecraft and SLS have been in planning, construction, and testing phases since 2011. NASA planned the Orion to be capable of extending past the Moon in conjunction with the SLS. This is the most powerful rocket NASA has created, producing 8.8 million pounds of thrust.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
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The first launch of Artemis I has been scheduled for August 29, 2022. NASA quoted Mike Sarafin, the Artemis I mission manager, saying, “[t]his is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known.” Per the NASA mission facts, Artemis I is just the first of many missions meant that aim to create environment capable of enabling the long-term presence of human life on the Moon. The main goal of the unmanned Artemis I mission launch is to ensure a safe and successful launch, re-entry, descent, and recovery in preparation for the manned Artemis II flight. While the Artemis II mission is not yet scheduled, the unique ability to reuse most aspects of the Orion and SLS components makes the turnaround time much faster and more cost-effective than ever before.
Where Will Artemis I Go?
After leaving the Earth’s orbit, Artemis I will travel to the Moon. This escapade will take several days, giving mission control ample time to gather information and adjust settings as need be. The spacecraft will fly approximately 62 miles above the Moon, and will then use the gravitational force to propel itself into an orbit around the Moon. This orbit is meant to test the abilities of Orion to handle deep space exploration. Just as the 48-hour countdown for launch is extensive and complex, so is the assessment and study of Orion in deep space. The spacecraft will remain in this orbit opposite the Earth for six days to allow scientists and aircraft controllers alike time to assess the abilities of Orion, potential hazards for Artemis II, and to gather information on the surroundings.
Artemis I is just the beginning of many missions to come. One major reason for this flight is to see how well Orion stands up to reentry to Earth. Coming back from the retrograde orbit, the gravitational force will act as a slingshot to bring the spacecraft back to Earth. The reaction of the atmosphere at this speed, however, will create temperatures nearing 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the hottest exposure Orion will have experienced to date. This flight and mission is one of the early steps in the Moon to Mars program announced in the NASA authorization bill recently.