We’re going back to the moon. Here’s what to know about the Artemis I launch
‘Because NASA has so much invested in this one rocket, a catastrophic failure would delay the moon program by years and perhaps lead to questioning of its value,’ The New York Times reported.
After scrubbing the Artemis 1 mission launch for the second time in a week, NASA said it will not be attempting another launch in the current launch calendar period, which expires on Sept. 6, the Deseret News reported.
“We do not launch until we think it’s right,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, noting “that the cost of two scrubs is a lot less than failure,” according to CNN. “These teams have labored over that and that is the conclusion they came to. I look at this as part of our space program, in which safety is the top of the list.”
The update comes after years of delays for the Artemis I mission, which takes a major step in returning humans to the moon — and, eventually, landing them on Mars. NASA has spent more than $40 billion on the Space Launch System rocket, and the spacecraft, Orion, according to The New York Times.
“Because NASA has so much invested in this one rocket, a catastrophic failure would delay the moon program by years and perhaps lead to questioning of its value,” The New York Times reported.
Although it is an unmanned mission, the event is a crucial test flight that, if successful, will set the stage for major space ventures over the next few years.
What is the Artemis I mission?
Artemis I is a massive test flight that has a main goal of making sure everything goes smoothly with the rocket and spacecraft, and ensuring that astronauts would make it safely home, The Verge reported.
“Artemis I will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to build a long-term human presence at the Moon for decades to come,” according to a mission statement on NASA’s website.
“This is a test flight. It’s not without risk,” Bob Cabana, NASA associate administrator, told CBS News. “We have analyzed the risk as best we can and we’ve mitigated it as best we can. But we are stressing Orion beyond what it was actually designed for in preparation for sending it to the moon with a crew. And we want to make sure it works absolutely perfectly when we do that and that we understand all the risks. We’re going to learn a lot from this test flight.”
The Orion spacecraft will have three mannequins strapped inside — one wearing one of the flight suits astronauts would wear on future missions, and the other two carrying radiation detectors to determine how much radiation astronauts would be exposed to during a trip to the moon, according to The Verge.
“It will fly farther from Earth than any spacecraft designed for humans has ever flown before, reaching a distance of 280,000 miles away from Earth,” per The Verge.
In total, after several days of orbiting around the moon, the mission will have traveled roughly 1.3 million miles, according to NASA’s website.
When is the Artemis 1 space launch?
Most recently, the Artemis I launch was a go for Saturday, Sept. 3 — although mission manager Mike Sarafin said nothing is ever guaranteed.
“We’ve got a whole host of things that could cause us to not get off on any given day,” he said at a recent news conference, per CBS News. “There’s no guarantee we’re going to get off (Saturday). But we’re going to show up, and we’re going to try, and we’re going to give it our best.”
After getting scrubbed due to a leak in the liquid hydrogen fueling process, the next launch period begins Sept. 19 and runs through Oct. 4, the Deseret News reported. After that, the next availability is from Oct. 17-31.
What happens after Artemis 1?
If the Artemis I mission goes well, there will be a second mission that will carry people onboard the Orion spacecraft, according to The Verge. It would mark the first manned mission to the moon since the Apollo era, although the astronauts would just orbit and not land.
A third Artemis mission in the works would land the first woman on the moon, The Verge reported.
“This is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known,” Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement, per Yahoo! News. “It will blaze a trail that people will follow on the next Orion flight, pushing the edges of the envelope to prepare for that mission.”
“The Artemis program hopes to return astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2026 and establish a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade,” according to Yahoo! News.