Cape Canaveral (US): NASA’s new moon rocket arrived at the launch pad Wednesday ahead of its debut flight in less than two weeks. The 322-foot (98-metre) rocket emerged from its mammoth hangar late Tuesday night, drawing crowds of Kennedy Space Centre workers. It took nearly 10 hours for the rocket to make the four-mile trip to the pad, pulling up at sunrise.
NASA is aiming for an August 29 liftoff for the lunar test flight. No one will be inside the crew capsule atop the rocket, just three mannequins – test dummies swarming with sensors to measure radiation and vibration.
The capsule will fly around the moon in a distant orbit for a couple weeks, before heading back for a splashdown in the Pacific. The entire flight should last six weeks.
See more images of the #Artemis I @NASA_SLS rocket and @NASA_Orion spacecraft as they arrived at Launch Pad 39B this morning. https://t.co/cTEfEpR4DT pic.twitter.com/MQUci1Tv6Q
— NASA HQ PHOTO (@nasahqphoto) August 17, 2022
The flight is the first moonshot in NASA’s Artemis programme. The space agency is aiming for a lunar-orbiting flight with astronauts in two years and a lunar landing by a human crew as early as 2025. That’s much later than NASA anticipated when it established the program more than a decade ago, as the space shuttle fleet retired. The years of delays have added billions of dollars to the cost.
NASA’s new SLS moon rocket, short for Space Launch System, is 41 feet (12 metres) shorter than the Saturn V rockets used during Apollo a half-century ago. But it’s more powerful, using a core stage and twin strap-on boosters, similar to the ones used for the space shuttles.
“When you look at the rocket, it almost looks retro. It looks like we’re looking back toward the Saturn V,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said this month. “But it’s a totally different, new, highly sophisticated, more sophisticated rocket and spacecraft.”
Twenty-four astronauts flew to the moon during Apollo, with 12 of them landing on it from 1969 through 1972. The space agency wants a more diverse team and more sustained effort under Artemis, named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister.
When #Artemis I launches to the Moon and back, there will be plenty of science hitching a ride. From CubeSats designed to hunt for lunar surface water deposits, to experiments on how cells respond to space, here’s more of what’s aboard @NASAArtemis: https://t.co/56qFqM0uCV pic.twitter.com/Dj1LR7fn3I
— NASA (@NASA) August 15, 2022