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Moon: NASA unveils the (very close) date of the first Artemis mission

After several years of testing and development, NASA is about to kick off the Artemis missions – which should mark the return of the United States, its partners (and humanity) to the Moon. At a press conference, NASA finally announced the launch date for the Artemis 1 mission, which was originally scheduled to take place earlier this year.

According to the US space agency, the launch is set for August 29, 2022 which means that we are only a few weeks away from the mission. It will be an unmanned mission, the purpose of which is essentially to test the SLS launcher, which will be its first flight, and the capabilities of the Orion capsule. In the event of unfavorable conditions, NASA adds that additional firing windows are planned for September 2 and 5, 2022.

NASA: the first Artemis mission to the moon will be launched on August 29, 2022

Artemis 1 will take off from the mythical base of Cape Canaveral in Florida. The SLS rocket will propel the Orion capsule to enable it to carry out a mission that will last around forty days. After separation, the Orion capsule will be placed in a trans-lunar injection, before returning to Earth. Orion had already been tested in space in 2014.

But this time, it is above all a question of confirming that the capsule will survive its return to the atmosphere, despite a speed of nearly 40,000 km/h which causes so much friction with the air that Orion’s heat shield will be “half as warm as the sun”. The Artemis 2 mission launched in 2024 will follow an identical route, but with astronauts on board.

As for the first moon landing since the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972, it will be necessary to wait until 2025 and the Artemis 3 mission. In concrete terms, the astronauts will take off aboard an Orion capsule perched on top of an SLS rocket before reaching a mini station called Gateway , placed in a nearly rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO).

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From there the crew will be able to board a SpaceX Starship HLS rocket (still in development) to make the rest of the trip and land on the moon. This version of Starship will be exclusive to Gateway – Moon missions. This is a Starship rocket without a heat shield. The Starship HLS will need to “refuel” with fuel in near-Earth orbit – before rejoining the Gateway’s NRHO orbit.