When does the Artemis I mission launch?

NASA’s new moon rocket upper stage is shown as it sits on Launch Pad 39-B Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA’s 21st-century moon-exploration program is named Artemis after Apollo’s mythological twin sister. NASA is targeting an early Wednesday morning launch attempt.

Chris O’Meara, Associated Press

After two previous launch attempts were scrubbed due to pesky fueling issues, NASA’s massive Space Launch System rocket is once again poised on a Florida launch pad, and countdown has commenced for a third try for liftoff early Wednesday morning.

This month marks 50 years since NASA astronauts last visited the moon. The space agency is hoping it can mark the occasion with the first launch of the new Artemis program, a multiphase effort that is aiming to return humans to the lunar surface, as early as 2025.

Did Hurricane Nicole impact the Artemis I launch schedule?

The SLS rocket/Orion space capsule stack was moved off its launch pad at Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center in late September as Hurricane Ian was roaring toward central Florida.

The 322-foot rocket found shelter in the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building for the weather and also allowed NASA to perform some needed maintenance issues to the rocket and spacecraft after two failed earlier launch attempts led to a long stay at launchpad 39B.

As late-season Hurricane Nicole approached Florida last week, NASA leaders decided the storm, much less ferocious than Ian, would not pose a significant threat to the SLS rocket package which rode out the weather on its pad.

While the countdown to Wednesday’s launch commenced early Monday, The Associated Press reports Hurricane Nicole’s high winds caused a 10-foot section of caulking to peel away near the Orion crew capsule at the top of the rocket last Thursday. Mission managers want to make sure the narrow strip won’t damage the rocket if it breaks off during liftoff. A final decision was expected Monday evening, per AP.

What happened with the first two Artemis I launch attempts?

The first launch attempt on Aug. 29 was shut down after a process to pre-cool the rocket engines in preparation for ignition failed to get one of the four engines to the required temperature of around minus 420 degrees Fahrenheit. In pre-launch preparations that day, NASA engineers also encountered a hydrogen leak that they eventually solved.

second try on Sept. 3 also went awry, and was ultimately scrubbed, due to a leak in the liquid hydrogen fueling process that could not be solved in time to make the two-hour launch window that day.

NASA has since conducted a successful test of the SLS fueling process following repairs to several key fueling mechanisms and appeared ready for a third try in late September, before Hurricane Ian forced a rollback of SLS to indoor protection.

What is the Artemis mission?

The crewless Artemis I mission is scheduled to last just over 25 days on a flight that will allow NASA experts to test the new SLS components, many of which have been repurposed from the old space shuttle program and other systems, as well as the Orion space capsule.

That capsule, the eventual home for future space travelers, will be carried into lunar orbit where it will take a spin around the moon and then head back to earth for a fiery plunge through the atmosphere at some 25,000 mph before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at the end of the mission.

Artemis I is just the first in a three-phase program aiming to put astronauts back on the surface of the moon for the first time since the final Apollo moon visit in December 1972.

Artemis II, currently anticipated for sometime in 2024, will head to space with a four-person crew in the Orion capsule that will fly the craft around the moon in further testing. Then, if all goes according to NASA’s current plan, the SLS/Orion package will return on a mission that will include a landing on the moon’s surface in 2025.

Along the way, NASA wants to put a small space station, the Lunar Gateway, in orbit around the moon and has future plans that include a moon base station, the Artemis Base Camp.

Why does NASA want to return to the moon?

In a posting on the Artemis missions’ website, NASA lists a few reasons why it’s devoting billions of dollars to making moon landings, once again, a priority.

“We’re going back to the moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits and inspiration for a new generation of explorers: the Artemis Generation,” NASA says. “While maintaining American leadership in exploration, we will build a global alliance and explore deep space for the benefit of all.”

While a return to the moon smacks a little of “been there, done that,” NASA says it’s committed to accomplishing some other first benchmarks as part of the series of Artemis missions, including extending manned exploration deeper into the solar system.

“With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before,” NASA says in a web posting. “We will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the moon. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.”

SLS rocket fun facts

NASA says its SLS launch system stands at 322 feet high — taller than the Statue of Liberty — and weighs 5.75 million pounds when loaded with fuel.

During launch and ascent, the SLS will produce 8.8 million pounds of maximum thrust, 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rockets that propelled Apollo astronauts to the moon.

Source: deseretnews.com

When does the Artemis I mission launch?