NASA is hours away from launching a new chapter in human space exploration to the Moon


Thousands of people gather in and around Kennedy Space Center awaiting the first flight into space of NASA’s ‘mega moon rocket’, and especially its Orion spacecraft which will head for the moon.

The two-hour launch window opens at 8:33 a.m. ET and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to line Florida’s Space Coast, eagerly anticipating this historic mission.

It’s the start of the Artemis mission, Artemis I. Although there are no crew on board – except for three mannequins and a stuffed Snoopy – it’s a crucial step for the return of humans to space.

Artemis II is scheduled to launch in 2024 or 2025, with four astronauts orbiting the Moon, including a Canadian.

The last time anyone visited the moon was in December 1972.

The weather along the Space Coast has been tumultuous, to say the least. Over the past week, temperatures have been around 32°C with a Humidex of 42°C and thunderstorms. On Saturday, two lightning towers around the rocket were struck three times.

Early Monday morning, there was a temporary suspension of thruster loading in SLS due to nearby lightning. If it continued to rain during the launch window, it would prevent the rocket from launching.

Lightning strikes Launch Pad 39B protection system as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, with the Orion spacecraft on board, sits on the pad Saturday. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

What to expect

While the big buildup is the launch itself, there’s still a lot to do. In the first 10 minutes after takeoff, a lot happens. The solid rocket boosters separate, the launch abort system is jettisoned, and the middle stage – the big orange tank – separates and falls back to Earth. At 8:51 a.m. ET, Orion’s solar panels, used to power the spacecraft, deploy, which will take approximately 12 minutes.

Next, Orion must get into position to head for the moon. To do this, there are several maneuvers, which continue throughout the day, that NASA will be watching very closely.

If all goes well, Orion will make a one-way trip to the moon that will continue five days after launch. Once there, it must move in a very particular orbit which will take another three days.

Finally, 35 days after Orion’s departure from Earth, the spacecraft will begin its return journey, where it is expected to crash into the Pacific Ocean off San Diego on October 10.

After Orion returns home, NASA will evaluate all the systems and tests they have done along the way, in preparation for Artemis II.

Canadian Space Agency astronauts Jeremy Hansen and Joshua Kutryk – one of four Canadian astronauts who could go on this Artemis II mission – were at the Kennedy Space Center before launch and said the Artemis I mission was just the first step.

“Eventually we will go back to the Moon, but this time it’s completely different. Not only will we go to a different place, there will be new science, new technology, but we also have eyes on Mars,” he added. said Hansen.

“This is a proving ground for taking humanity into deep space. These are just the first steps of something much, much bigger.”

Canadian Space Agency astronauts Jeremy Hansen and Josh Kutryk were on hand at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as NASA prepared for its first lunar launch in 50 years. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

Kutryk was keen to emphasize that this was not just an American effort.

“It’s not just NASA…it’s a global effort. It’s NASA leading the world to come out and do these really tough challenges to try to put in place – not just from the United States – but a human presence on the moon and then eventually on Mars,” Kutryk said.

“So it’s very different in that regard and it’s very important in that regard that we take the world with us.”


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