by Arjun Mehrotra
For the past 10 years, NASA has been working on a series of rockets that will land humanity on the moon. Originally called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the Artemis 1 is an unmanned mission that will be the first NASA mission to use the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the Orion spacecraft. The Artemis missions will lay the foundation for future missions to the moon, an integral part of theoretical moon bases. Artemis is currently docked at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Artemis mission is going to be the first rocket in 50 years to be launched to the moon. The mission is expected to last 4-6 weeks. The goal is to demonstrate the safety of the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System ahead of the Artemis II, which, if all goes according to plan, will be a crewed mission. Artemis will travel almost 280,000 miles from earth, with the most powerful rocket in the world.
The launch process hasn’t been just smooth sailing, however. The rocket was first set to launch on the 29th of August, but a faulty temperature sensor caused it to be delayed to the 3rd of September. But on the afternoon of the 3rd, a leak was discovered in one of the fuel supply lines. NASA tried again on the 27th of September, but bad weather shut down that attempt. A launch window was set during October, but NASA has decided that they are going to go with a launch time in November, citing that due to Hurricane Ian, they were, “Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch”.
Artemis I is incredibly exciting because of its potential consequences. Space travel has long been a dream of humanity, and this mission will open the door to safer, better, and faster moon missions. The last person on the moon was Eugene Cernan, who went in 1972. Due to large funding cuts, NASA didn’t have access to the budget needed to properly conduct space-based experiments but this may be changing. With more money and access to newer technology, NASA aims to get humans back on the moon by 2024.
NASA recently had a big win with DART (Double asteroid redirection test). The small spacecraft, which was launched last month, was trying to crash into the asteroid Dimorphos, which orbited around a larger asteroid, Didymos. DART changed the orbit of Dimorphos by 32 minutes, far more than we could have hoped for. The mission was a test to prove that in the event of a doomsday asteroid, we would be able to defend ourselves. This is the first time in history that humans have been able to move a celestial object, and the repercussions of this are astronomical. The total mission had a cost of about $324 million, a good price for a planetary defense.
All in all, NASA is proving that space travel is definitely within the grasp of civilization. With staggeringly low funding compared to other aspects of the US national budget, NASA is showing us that with more effort, we can revolutionize the way the world works. Space missions are no doubt going to be a crucial part of our futures, and it’s time we embrace them. Mike Sarafin puts this well when he says:
“This is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known. It will blaze a trail that people will follow on the next Orion flight, pushing the edges of the envelope to prepare for that mission.” – Mike Sarafin, Artemis I Mission manager