UPDATED 4:20 PM PT – Sunday, August 28, 2022
All systems are a go for the highly-anticipated Artemis 1 test flight. The $37 billion Orion spacecraft is set to launch from Kennedy Space Center on Monday. The unmanned lunar rocket will take a lap around the moon to test its capabilities before returning to earth six-weeks later.
This morning I had my first look at the fully assembled #Artemis1 rocket – I’m speechless! Years of dreams and exceptional hard work at @NASA have paid off – WE ARE GOING! Launch window to the Moon opens at 08:33 ET tomorrow! Follow along: https://t.co/6mIYz4bUa5 pic.twitter.com/nBgt78ecxp
— Jessica Meir (@Astro_Jessica) August 28, 2022
James Free, the Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA spoke on the topic.
“We have, I would say, simple but aggressive objectives, that is to get the vehicle into orbit, in orbit and back home and understand how the systems operate,” explained Free. “We need to understand how the heat shield performs on its re-entry and we need to recover the vehicle.”
More than 100,000 people are expected to line Florida’s space coast to watch the launch. While there will be no crew onboard, NASA astronauts are excited for its launch because its success brings them “one giant leap” closer to a moon landing mission. If everything goes according to plan, there could be a crew flying around the moon in 2024 and a moon landing in 2025. That would be 56-years after Neil Armstrong took a giant leap for mankind.
However, NASA explained that this lunar landing has a different set of objectives than Apollo 11 did.
“We’re going to be sustainable this time,” Free said. “That doesn’t mean we’re staying 365 days a year. It means that we’re going to be able to stay for 30 days and help enable others to stay there while we’re not there.”
The agency recently announced 13-possible landing sites on the lunar south pole for Artemis Mission 3. It would be the first-time humans have ever visited the permanently shadowed regions of the moon and it would serve as a steppingstone for future missions to Mars. NASA astronaut, Randolph Bresnik spoke on the potential mission.
“If you think of going to the moon as, you know, a camping expedition and Mars being a further out camping expedition, you’re not going to go out to the Alaskan wilderness with just going to the sporting goods store and buying a tent and getting your boots that are brand new out of the box. And you’re not going to go out to the Alaskan wilderness without having tried that stuff and yet broken it in – make sure it works,” explained Bresnik. “You’re going to go to some local place. It’s a little closer that maybe, you know, you can come back pretty quickly, come back home if you’re if your shoelaces break or something like that. We’re not going to have that option when we go to Mars. It’s you know, we take everything that we need with us.”
The last manned mission to the moon was Apollo 17. That mission occurred in December of 1972. So why has it taken more than half-a-century to take another “small step” back on the moon’s surface? NASA spokesperson Derrol Nail said it has much to do with previous presidential administrations and with them changing national priorities.
President Obama wasted eight years that could’ve been spent getting Americans beyond low earth orbit. His cancellation of Project Constellation drew public outrage from the space exploration community, including from famous astronauts Neil Armstrong and James Lovell. Obama’s pie-in-the-sky Journey to Mars Program was seen as a last-ditch effort to save face. The “obamacare of space exploration,” was expensive, unsustainable and not designed to do what it promised.
Now, the inspiration and dedication to go back to the moon and to further explore deep space has been renewed. It was advanced in hyper-speed under President Trump’s watch.