KOSMOSEST #3: Ad Lunam
In a milestone for reviving human lunar exploration, the most powerful rocket yet built has set course for the Moon. Here is an overview of the Artemis program.
Welcome to the third issue of KOSMOSEST!
The week’s space exploration highlight is the successful launch of the Artemis I mission on Nov. 16. Artemis I is a test run in a series of missions that aim to land humans on the Moon again. There is no crew onboard yet1 as it’s the first flight of the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon and back.
Find quick facts and the illustration of the rocket bits below.
Artemis I will demonstrate the Orion spacecraft’s systems in a spaceflight environment. It is crucial to ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II. The launch underwent on the third attempt. NASA previously announced issues regarding tanking operations—a worthwhile reminder that new space technology takes numerous attempts before getting it right. Furthermore, the launch location Florida was targeted by two hurricanes.
If you wonder how NASA's Space Launch System, or SLS, compares to earlier generations of NASA launch vehicles:
SLS will launch more cargo to the Moon than the Space Shuttle could send to low-Earth orbit.
Here is a quick fact sheet:
Orion will perform a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself almost half a million km from Earth—farther than any human has travelled before.
An engine firing is due on Nov. 25 to insert the capsule into a lunar orbit.
The capsule will stay in that orbit until Dec. 1, when its course is set back for Earth.
Orion’s splash-down in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast is planned for Dec. 11.
The second Artemis mission will have a similar flight plan but with four astronauts.
The Orion spacecraft comprises the European Service Module, which will provide life support for astronauts—electricity, water, oxygen and nitrogen, as well as keeping the spacecraft at the right temperature and on course. The module was funded by the European Space Agency and built by Airbus.
Science experiments and ten small satellites were launched along the spacecraft to collect data and test new technologies.
You can almost feel the heat in the short version of the launch below.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this week’s look into the universe.
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Mari-Liis 🇪🇪 "Marie" 🌍
Astrophysics Researcher, Science Communicator
A few special guests made it onboard, including a human-sized test mannequin to collect data, Shaun the Sheep, and Snoopy.