On December 14th, 1972, Eugene Cernan led the Apollo 17 onto the surface of the moon, for what he knew would be the last moonwalk of the century. On November 16th, 2022, NASA launched Artemis I, the beginning of a new series of missions to bring humanity back to the moon. This mission begins a new era of space exploration for NASA, alongside a new collection of technology to get us there.

Artemis I was an unmanned mission, with the intention of testing two new key pieces of NASA technology – the space launch system (SLS) and the Orion crew vehicle. The SLS rocket is the worlds most powerful rocket, offering deeper space travel than ever before and with a heavier payload. The rocket is designed to be evolvable, to adapt to future missions and to NASA’s needs [1]. The Orion crew vehicle is designed for long term space travel. Most notably the capsule has advanced life support systems to protect the crew for long periods of time, improved radiation protection and 33 additional engines to its large main engine to perform deep space maneuvers [2]. Most notable is the Launch Abort System (LAS), positioned on top of the crew module. The LAS is designed to protect astronauts should complications arise with launch – capable of producing 400,000 pounds of thrust to pull the crew away from danger in case of an emergency.

 

Artemis I showed the first launch of the SLS and put Orion into lunar orbit. The mission lasted 25 days, and confirmed Orions ability to stay in lunar orbit, adjust course and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere (with the hottest and fastest re-entry to date) safely. NASA has now unveilved the four astronauts of Artemis II, Commander Reid Wiseman, Pilot Victor Glover, Mission Specialist 1 Christina Hammock Koch, and Mission Specialist 2 Jeremy Hansen. The goal of this mission is similar to Artemis I – this time allowing the crew to test equipment on Orion as they orbit the moon, Going onto future Artemis missions, this crew will include the first woman and first person of colour to ever land on the surface of the moon.

 

[1] – https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/fs/sls.html

[2] – https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/orion.html

 

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