NASA Moon mission is cleared to launch

NASA Moon mission is cleared to launch

SLS-Orion

This flight to the moon took over a decade to make

The US space agency says it is “going” to launch its new giant rocket from the Moon next Monday.

NASA officials conducted a flight readiness review on Monday and concluded that there were no substantial technical issues in its path.

The rocket, known as the Space Launch System, will send a capsule, called Orion, on an excursion around the Moon.

This time, without a crew, the astronauts will climb aboard for subsequent missions, assuming everything goes according to plan.

The SLS will ascend from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The vehicle was given a two-hour window on Monday to leave Earth, starting at 08:33 local time (12:33 GMT; 13:33 BST).

FRR

Flight Readiness Review found no obvious obstacles at this stage

It will be a key moment for NASA, which in December will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the last human landing on the Moon – Apollo 17.

The agency promised to return with its new “Artemis program”, using technology befitting the modern era (Artemis was the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo and goddess of the Moon).

NASA sees a return to the Moon as a way to prepare to go to Mars with astronauts sometime in the 2030s or soon after.

SLS and Orion have been in development for more than a decade and cost in each case more than $20 billion to get to this point.

Orion has flown before, once, in a near-Earth test in 2014.

But that used an existing commercial rocket to go into space. This upcoming flight is therefore the first full end-to-end examination of Artemis exploration hardware.

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer

Artemis: Return to the Moon

BBC Science Editor Rebecca Morelle takes a closer look at the rockets and capsules that will take humans back to the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years. (UK only)

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer

SLS chart

SLS chart

SLS and Orion were launched on the launch pad last week. The engineering and technical team spent the in-between days connecting fuel, electrical and communication lines in readiness for the grand countdown.

This should begin with a “call to the stations” for the Artemis I launch team at 09:95 EDT on Saturday, with the operation to load SLS with 2.7 million liters of propellants (liquid hydrogen and oxygen) scheduled for start just after midnight on Monday.

NASA expects hundreds of thousands of spectators on beaches along the space coast.

This will be the most powerful rocket ever to move away from Kennedy, producing 39.1 meganewtons (8.8 million pounds) of thrust off the platform. That’s nearly 15% more than Apollo’s Saturn V rockets and over 20% more than the old space shuttle system.

Put another way, the SLS’s engines could power the equivalent of nearly 60 supersonic Concorde jets at takeoff.

Orion will be sent on a 42-day mission to and beyond the Moon.

It is expected back to Earth for a swim in the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, California on October 10th.

Casting Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson

Director of Launch Charlie Blackwell-Thompson will call his team to his stations Saturday morning

Artemis II, the first manned mission to use SLS-Orion, targets 2024. Artemis III, the first landing on the lunar surface since 1972, will not occur until late 2025.

NASA has yet to name any astronauts for these missions, but in recent days it has published locations on the lunar surface where future crews could be sent.

Identified 13 candidate destinations. They are all within six degrees of latitude of the lunar South Pole (Apollo was largely confined to equatorial or near-equatorial landing sites).

The aim is to get close to permanently shaded areas where water ice has likely accumulated over billions of years.

These ices can be used to drink water or to make rocket fuel.

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