New NASA lunar rocket launch attempt on Wednesday

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New NASA lunar rocket launch attempt on Wednesday

The SLS rocket on its launch pad, November 11, 2022.

Will the third time be the right one? After two failed attempts this summer, NASA was busy Monday to complete the final preparations before the liftoff for the Moon of its new mega-rocket, now scheduled for Wednesday from Florida, and to mark the great start of its new flagship program, Artemis.

Fifty years after the last Apollo flight, NASA this time wants to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon, in order to prepare for a future trip to Mars. The Artemis 1 mission, a test flight without an astronaut on board, represents the very first step.

Towards a return of humans to the Moon. Our mission file.

The launch of the SLS rocket, which should become the most powerful in the world, is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:04 a.m. (ET), with a window of possible shooting of two hours.

The countdown has already started again at the Kennedy Space Center, where the huge orange and white craft is still patiently awaiting its maiden flight.

Takeoff is scheduled less than a week after Hurricane Nicole struck, the rocket battling the winds on its launch pad.

However, the launch remains suspended until a final meeting on Monday: mission officials must determine the risk associated with the hurricane damaging a thin layer of sealant at the Orion capsule, located at the top of the rocket. It is a question of evaluating whether this material could detach more during takeoff and thus pose a problem.

During Artemis I, Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon.

Two fallback dates are possible if necessary, November 19 and 25.

But Mike Sarafin, mission manager, was optimistic on Sunday evening: I' x27;have a good feeling moving towards this Nov. 16 attempt, he said at a press conference.

Once n'is not usual, the weather promises to be mild, with a 90% chance of favorable weather during the shooting window.

At the end of September, the rocket had to be returned to its assembly building to be sheltered from another hurricane, Ian, delaying takeoff by several weeks.

Before these meteorological setbacks, two launch attempts had failed this summer, in the last hours of the countdown.

The first cancellation was linked to a faulty sensor, and the second to a fuel leak during the filling of the rocket's tanks. The craft runs on ultra-cold liquid oxygen and hydrogen.

NASA has since replaced a seal and modified its procedures to minimize thermal shocks. A new test at the end of September had been carried out successfully.

These filling operations must now begin on Tuesday afternoon, under the orders of Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the first female launch director from NASA.

About 100,000 people are expected on the coast to witness this night takeoff, during which the rocket promises to light up the sky in a large ball of fire.

The Orion capsule will be lifted by two booster thrusters and four powerful motors under the main stage, which will detach after only a few minutes. After a final push through the upper stage, the capsule will be on its way to the Moon, which it will take several days to reach.

First leg of the mission.

She won't land there not, but it will be placed in distant orbit, even venturing up to 70,000 km behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft so far.

Second stage of the mission.

Then the capsule will begin its return to Earth. Its heat shield, the largest ever built, will have to withstand a temperature half as hot as the surface of the Sun as it passes through the atmosphere.

Third stage of the mission

If takeoff takes place on Wednesday, the mission would thus last 25 and a half days, with a landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.

The success of this mission is crucial for NASA, which has been developing the SLS rocket for more than a decade, and which will have invested more than 90 billion dollars in its new lunar program by the end of 2025, according to a public audit.

After this first mission, Artemis 2 will carry astronauts to the Moon in 2024, still without landing there. This honor will be reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, in 2025 at the earliest.

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

NASA is aiming to send the first woman and the first person of color.

The space agency then wants to launch the construction of a space station in orbit around the Moon and x27;a base on its surface.

There, humanity must learn to live far from Earth, and develop all the technologies necessary for a round trip to Mars.

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