A new setback has forced NASA officials to temporarily suspend the launch of the Artemis 1 mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA).
Last Monday, August 29, it could not be carried out due to engine cooling problems of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, which carries the Orion spacecraft, and takeoff was scheduled for this Saturday, but it has not been possible either.
This second attempt stopped the countdown “when engineers failed to repair a hydrogen leak at a quick disconnect, an interface between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line and the SLS rocket,” according to a release NASA, where more launch attempts are reported to have been abandoned in early September.
Over the next few days, mission teams will decide where to fix the leak (on Launch Pad 39B itself or in the Assembly Building) and reassess the schedule, with new launch dates likely as early as October.
Artemis I is the first of several missions to take humans back to the moon. The last time was with the Apollo program in 1972.
Although it is still early for us to see astronauts walking on our satellite, this first mission is an unmanned test to ensure that the Orion spacecraft is able to reach its destination without complications. The knowledge acquired will serve, among other objectives, to be able to build a lunar base suitable for living and to prepare for future manned missions to Mars.
Compared to the Apollo missions, “those of the Artemis program are approached differently, since NASA wants them to serve as a test for more ambitious missions”, astrophysicist Belén Yu Irureta-Goyena tells SINC.
“To put humans on Mars, where it takes years to get there, you need to make sure that everything works well in a more controlled environment, like the Moon. What you want is not just to get to the Moon, but to establish settlements that also They can serve as a stopover point between Earth and other places in the solar system. In addition, unlike Apollo, Artemis will focus on the lunar south pole, investigating territories unexplored by human beings”, explains this researcher from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
A new route to a known destination
The Orion spacecraft, propelled by the SLS rocket, must reach the Moon’s orbit, where it will spend six days circling around it, before returning to our planet later. In total, it will be a mission of up to approximately 42 days that will lay the foundations for Artemis II, which will already incorporate a human crew, in 2024.
Once in translunar orbit, the spacecraft will release 10 CubeSats (small satellites) that will be used to plan future missions, protect astronauts and monitor the health of the Earth.
During the trip to the Moon, the Orion spacecraft will carry out a correction maneuver and will be placed in a distant retrograde orbit (DRO) thanks to the main engine of the service module, the work of the European Space Agency (ESA). This orbit is “distant” because it is high above the lunar surface, and it is “retrograde” because Orion will travel around the Moon in the opposite direction as it goes around Earth.
If everything goes as planned, the capsule will then land in the Pacific Ocean, northeast of Hawaii. During atmospheric re-entry, the ship will reach 40,200 km per hour and will at the same time be the last stage and one of the most dangerous.
Trajectory for the first Artemis mission. / NASA. Translated by Rolando Jelves
An unmanned mission, or is it?
Although this first mission is not manned, three mannequins (Helga, Zohar and Comandante Campos) designed to measure the amount of space radiation astronauts might experience on a trip to the Moon.
These inorganic travelers have materials that mimic human bones and tissues, along with a multitude of sensors and radiation detectors in various parts of the body, including some typical of women, such as the ovaries. The collected data will help to better protect astronauts in the future.
Artemis I will also carry tiny biological life forms on board, in addition to other scientific payloads. The Biological Experiment 01 (BioExpt-01) from NASA includes four investigations that will assess the effects of the deep space environment on the nutritional value of plant seeds, DNA repair within fungi, yeast adaptation, and algae gene expression.
By sending these samples through two giant rings of radiation around Earth—the Van Allen belts—into regions beyond low-Earth orbit, researchers will gain insights into how life can thrive in the deep space and support future manned missions to the Moon and Mars.
Main characteristics of the Space Launch System (SLS). / NASA. Translated by Rolando Jelves
Lunar exploration will have a female role
The name of Artemis, twin of Apollo in Greek mythology, reflects the intention that a woman be the first astronaut to leave a mark on our natural satellite, in the middle of this decade. It is not yet known who will be the members of the crew of Artemis II and III, but they will surely be chosen among the new astronaut classes presented by NASA.
If the Artemis I mission is successful, the program will continue with Artemis II in 2024, where four astronauts will repeat the unmanned journey around the Moon that Orion is now beginning.
In this context, the deployment of Gateway is pending, a station that will orbit the Moon from that year and that will facilitate the landing of the Artemis ships.
“This platform will allow two major improvements: reduce weight, because the ships will no longer have to carry a landing module from Earth, which will lower their cost, and easily access all parts of the Moon (as opposed to Apollo, which was in an almost invariable orbit). Although the Gateway will be habitable, it will not house astronauts semi-permanently like the International Space Station, but rather short visits,” argues Irureta-Goyena.
Finally, in 2025 the takeoff of Artemis III is scheduled, which will finally lead the first woman to step on the surface of our satellite.
In this third mission, the NASA spacecraft will land on one of the 13 regions south pole candidates to host the moon landing. This area is a strategic location to establish a lunar base in the next decade, as there are craters there that never receive sunlight and it is believed that there are large reserves of water in the form of ice under the regolith, the fine dust that covers the Moon. .
European participation in Artemis
“The European Space Agency (ESA) has played a very important role in the mission: the design and construction of the Orion service module, which will be vital because it will provide air, water, electricity and propulsion. In addition, ESA will be in charge of monitoring six of the ten CubeSats that will accompany Orion on launch and then stay in space for various scientific purposes One of the main monitoring stations will be Cebrerosnear Madrid,” explains Irureta-Goyena.
The service module will accompany Orion for most of its journey until atmospheric reentry, at which point they will part ways. During its journey, it will help the spacecraft to correct its trajectory and keep its solar panels in a suitable position to generate maximum energy.
Regarding the location of the CubeSats, the ESA will use the ‘Doppler shift’, which consists of transmitting 8 GHz waves to Earth to determine your location from there. If one of these satellites moves towards our planet while broadcasting its message, the light wave is slightly flattened, shortening the wavelength and increasing its frequency. On the contrary, if it is moving away from Earth, its message is stretched and its frequency is lengthened, explains the ESA.
The Japanese (JAXA), Canadian (CSA), Mexican (AEM), Brazilian (AEB) and Australian (ASA) agencies also participate in the Artemis Program.
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