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Artemis mission: 2nd test for NASA’s mega-rocket

Six weeks in space

In the middle of the long weekend in the United States, up to 400,000 people are expected to admire the take-off, especially from the surrounding beaches.

A host of astronauts also made the trip, including Frenchman Thomas Pesquet.

The filling of the rocket’s tanks with its cryogenic fuel — about three million liters of liquid hydrogen and oxygen — is due to begin in the early morning.

On Monday, a leak had been observed at this stage, before an engine cooling problem ended up canceling the launch. NASA has since worked to resolve these issues.

If successful, two minutes after takeoff, the boosters will fall back into the Atlantic. After eight minutes, the main stage will detach in turn. Then, after about an hour and a half, a final push from the upper stage will put the capsule on its way to the Moon, which it will take several days to reach.

The trip is expected to last about six weeks in total. Orion will venture up to 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft so far.

The main purpose of Artemis 1 is to test the capsule’s heat shield, the largest ever built. On its return 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 must travel some 2.1 million kilometers until it lands in the Pacific Ocean.

Moon landing in 2025

The complete success of the mission would be a relief for NASA, which originally counted on a first launch in 2017 for SLS, and will have invested by the end of 2025 more than 90 billion dollars in its new lunar program, according to a public audit.

The name Artemis was chosen after a female figure, the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo — echoing the Apollo program, which sent only white men to the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972.

This time, NASA wants to allow the first person of color and the first woman to walk on the Moon.

As if to accentuate the symbol, it is the first woman launch director at NASA, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, who will give the “go“Final take-off on Saturday.

After this first mission, Artémis 2 will carry astronauts to the Moon in 2024, without landing there. An honor reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, in 2025 at the earliest. NASA then wants to launch about one mission per year.

It will then be a question of building a space station in lunar orbit, baptized Gateway, and a base on the surface of the Moon.

There, NASA wants to test the technologies necessary to send the first humans to Mars: new suits, vehicle to move, possible use of lunar water…

According to NASA boss Bill Nelson, a round trip to the red planet aboard Orion, which would last several years, could be attempted towards the end of the 2030s.