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NASA shoots at the Moon, on its way to Mars

NASA’s SLS rocket and Orion capsule atop it August 26, 2022 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, prior to liftoff of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission to the Moon.

NASA’s most powerful rocket yet is set to blast off Monday on the maiden voyage of a mission to take humans back to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, the space program called Artemis will get underway with the liftoff of the uncrewed 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at 8:33 a.m. (12:33 p.m. GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Tens of thousands of people line Florida’s beaches to watch this launch decades in the making. They include Vice President Kamala Harris.

Hotels around Cape Canaveral are packed and 100,000 to 200,000 spectators are expected to attend the launch.

The purpose of the flight, dubbed Artemis 1, is to test the SLS and the Orion crew capsule that sits on top of the rocket.

The capsule will orbit the moon to see if the ship is safe for people in the near future. At some point, Artemis will see a woman and a person of color walk on the moon for the first time.

“This mission is going with a lot of hopes and dreams of a lot of people. And now we are the Artemis generation,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Saturday.

The huge orange and white rocket has been sitting in the space center’s Launch Complex 39B for a week.

Artemis Flight Stages 1

Schematic diagram of NASA’s Artemis I voyage planned for launch on August 29.

Its fuel tanks were to be filled overnight from Sunday to Monday with more than three million liters of liquid hydrogen and oxygen.

NASA said there is an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather for a timely liftoff at the start of a two-hour launch window.

For the first time, a woman, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, will give the final green light for takeoff. Women now make up 30 percent of staff in the control room; there was only one back with Apollo 11.

The cameras will capture every moment of the 42-day journey, including a selfie of the spacecraft with the Moon and Earth in the background.

The Orion capsule will orbit the Moon, coming within 60 miles (100 kilometers) at its closest approach and then firing its engines to reach a distance of 40,000 miles beyond it, a record for a spacecraft classified to carry humans.

The temperatures helped as hot as the sun.

In addition to the weather, any kind of technical error could delay liftoff at the last minute, NASA officials said, emphasizing that this is a test flight.

How the US plans to return to the Moon

Graphic about NASA’s Artemis program to establish a mini space station in orbit around the Moon before landing on the surface in 2024.

If the rocket is unable to take off on Monday, September 2 and 5 have been set as alternative flight dates.

One of the mission’s main goals is to test the capsule’s heat shield, which at 16 feet in diameter is the largest ever built.

On its return to Earth’s atmosphere, the heat shield will have to withstand a speed of 25,000 miles per hour and a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius). That’s half as hot as the sun.

Taking the place of people for now, the sensor-equipped dummies will take the place of crew members, recording acceleration, vibration and radiation levels.

It will deploy small satellites to study the lunar surface.

A complete failure would be devastating for a program that is costing $4.1 billion per launch and already years behind schedule.

Weather conditions that could delay NASA's Artemis lunar mission

Graphic of the various weather conditions that could force the cancellation of NASA’s unmanned Artemis mission to the moon scheduled for August 29.

life on the moon

“What we’re starting with Monday’s launch is not a short-term sprint, but a long-term marathon to bring the solar system and beyond into our sphere,” said Bhavya Lal, associate administrator for technology, policy and strategy at The NASA.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts to orbit the Moon without landing on its surface. The Artemis 3 crew will land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest.

While the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon were exclusively white men, the Artemis program plans to include the first woman and person of color.

And since humans have already visited the Moon, Artemis has his sights set on another lofty goal: an eventual manned mission to Mars.

The Artemis program is to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon with an orbiting space station known as the Gateway and a base on the surface.

Gateway would serve as a staging and refueling station for a trip to Mars that would take a minimum of several months.

All systems go to the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon

© 2022 AFP

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