NASA Artemis I SLS-Orion Spacecraft Launch: NASA’s Historic Lunar Mission Explained in 10 Points

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NASA is all set to launch its most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), for its Artemis I lunar mission. Decades after the space agency completed its Apollo mission, NASA is preparing to send astronauts back to the surface of the Moon. The super heavy-lift launch vehicle will carry the Orion spacecraft and is scheduled to blast off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida later today.

According to the US space agency, Artemis I is the first in a series of complex missions that will pave the way for human exploration on the Moon and Mars. The SLS spacecraft is NASA’s latest Vertical Launch System, and is part of the agency’s preliminary tests ahead of its plan to return humans to the surface of the Moon.

Before the launch of Artemis I, here’s what you need to know about the historic mission.

  1. The primary objective of the Artemis I lunar mission is to test the Orion capsule’s systems in a spacecraft environment and ensure its safe re-entry, descent, splashdown and recovery to Earth. Splashdown is scheduled for October 10, 2022.
  2. The Artemis I mission, an uncrewed flight, will provide vital data before NASA begins the first flight with a crew to the Moon in Artemis II. According to NASA, Artemis I will “provide a foundation for human deep space exploration.”
  3. NASA’s SLS rocket is the world’s most powerful rocket and the only launch vehicle capable of carrying the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and cargo directly to the Moon in a single mission.
  4. With the help of the SLS rocket, the Orion crew capsule will reach the speed of 24,500 mph which is required to reach the Moon. The spacecraft will travel 2,80,000 miles from Earth in a mission of more than 42 days.
  5. Orion will fly farther than any other spacecraft ever built and stay in space longer than any spacecraft for astronauts without docking at a space station.
  6. The Orion module will separate from the upper stage of the rocket after which it will go to the Moon. It will fly about 100 km above the lunar surface before traveling about 64,200 km to the Moon and then back to Earth.
  7. In addition to Orion, the SLS rocket will also carry 10 small satellites to the Moon that will investigate science and technology.
  8. To test the effect of flight to the Moon on astronauts, an effigy named Commander Moonikin Campos will board the Orion capsule while seated in the commander’s seat. It will be equipped with sensors and wear an Orion Crew Survival System suit to record data that will help verify crew safety in future crewed missions.
  9. Two other models, Helga and Johar, will also board the lunar flight. They have torsos made of the same material as a woman’s soft tissue, organs and bones. They are equipped with 5,600 sensors and 34 radiation detectors and will record radiation exposure during flight.
  10. A reconfigured version of Amazon voice assistant Alexa will be sent with the mission to test the performance of such devices in space. In addition, a toy named Snoopy will be used as a zero-gravity indicator inside Orion.

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