After overcoming all the problems and a week of travel, Artemis still has the most delicate thing left.

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A week ago, the first mission of the Artemis program left the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral for the Moon. The mission had 25 and a half days to travel to and from our satellite. In less than seven days, the Orion capsule is already on the Moon. This is what lies ahead.

Everything is alright now.
The rocket Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket that space agencies have so far, left the Kennedy Space Center in the early hours of Wednesday the 16th, at 7:47 a.m. peninsular time (CET), 1:47 a.m. local time in Florida. On board the new Orion capsule departed, the one in charge of carrying out the following phases of the Artemis I mission.

The takeoff was a success and in successive adjustment maneuvers, the last stage of the rocket put the Orion capsule in the direction of the Moon. The maneuver had served to put a dozen more experiments on their way to their destinations. After five days of travel Orion reached the “sphere of influence” of the Moon and began the passage maneuver.

The last update of the mission, on the seventh day of the trip (November 22), gave an account of some tests of the capsule such as its guidance system and the beginning of its transit to orbit that it will complete in the next phase of its trip: the Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO).

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18 days ahead.
The capsule should reach its new orbit late on Friday the 25th. It will accompany our satellite from this orbit for almost another week and then carry out the necessary maneuvers to return to Earth.

These maneuvers will be similar to those that put you in the DRO orbit, symmetrical in a sense. Orion will leave lunar orbit to approach the satellite first and carry out the passage maneuver. This will leave the mission in a sort of free fall, back towards Earth. During the return trip she will carry out, yes, the necessary maneuvers to “aim” correctly.

As it approaches Earth, the Orion capsule will split in two: the service module will separate from the crew module, which will also serve as the lander. The maneuver will take this module to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere to crash into the Pacific Ocean on December 11.

More than some mannequins.
The re-entry of the Orion capsule will also be a delicate moment of the mission. Atmospheric reentries are demanding maneuvers for ships and crews, in which the ship has to endure temperatures that they can be around 1,700ºC. Checking the operation of the Orion’s heat shield is one of the most important objectives of this first Artemis mission.

Test the delicacy of this maneuver, the various ships that have been lost in reentry maneuvers, even on planets like Mars, where the less dense atmosphere implies less resistance. Perhaps the most sadly known case is that of the Columbia ferry, an accident that cost the lives of seven people.

The shield not only has to maintain the temperature of the ship but also be a first “decelerator” of the capsule. On board the Orion crew module, those in charge of the mission put several mannequins. These dummies will be used to check the conditions that the future crew members of the Artemis missions will have to endure. This includes the rapid deceleration of the ship.

A program with a multitude of missions.
responsible for returning humanity to the Moon. The first one in a manned orbital flight and the next one that will involve landing on our satellite.

They will not be the last missions. The US space agency announced that, despite delays in the Artemis program, the target will be have a stable presence on the Moon before the end of this decade. Beyond that, the constant delays have meant that it is very difficult to estimate a precise schedule for Artemis.

What we do know is that NASA is not alone in this race to return to the Moon. China has become the main competitor of the Americans in this effort. Beijing’s lunar program has made remarkable strides in its unmanned missions and has been responsible for the first lunar sample return in decades, dating back to the era of the US Apollo and Soviet Luna programs.

Image | NASA, Artemis 1

A week ago, the first mission of the Artemis program left the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral for the…

A week ago, the first mission of the Artemis program left the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral for the…

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