NASA is trying for the third time to launch its mega-rocket for the Moon

Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, this unmanned test flight, which will fly tonight and circle the Moon without landing, should prove that the vehicle is safe for the future crew.

Third test for NASA’s new mega-rocket: the takeoff of the Artemis 1 mission is scheduled for the night of Tuesday November 15 to Wednesday November 16 from Florida, and this time all the lights are green to finally launch the big program in the American back. the moon.

The first flight of the SLS rocket, the most powerful in the world, is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:04 local time (6:04 Paris time), with a possible launch window of two hours. The chance of favorable conditions during the launch was slightly reduced from 90% to 80% on Tuesday. As expected, NASA’s first female launch director, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, gave the go-ahead on Tuesday afternoon to begin complex fueling operations at the Kennedy Space Center.

“Our time will come”

Our time will come and hopefully it will be Wednesday“, stated on Monday night Mike Sarafin, who is in charge of the mission. He praised theENDURANCEof his teams, who had to recover after two failed take-off attempts this summer, then two typhoons.

Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, this unmanned test flight, which will circle the Moon without landing there, must prove that the vehicle is safe for the future crew. This same rocket will carry the first woman and the first man of color to the Moon in the future. Despite the one-night launch on Wednesday, around 100,000 people are expected to admire the show, mainly from nearby beaches.

I’m too young for the Apollo missions so I want to go and see the next moon rise, in personAndrew Trombley, 49, told AFP in Cocoa Beach. This engineer has already traveled from Missouri for the first two tests. “I can’t wait to see him gohe said, wearing a Star Wars t-shirt.

It’s part of America, it’s the essence“Said Kerry Warner, a 59-year-old resident of Florida. Complex refueling operations will begin on Tuesday afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center, under the command of Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the first female director of NASA’s launch The rocket’s orange main stage will be filled with no less than 2.7 million liters of liquid oxygen and hydrogen.

The program is a year behind schedule

This summer, a hydrogen leak caused the cancellation of a second take-off attempt at the last moment. The methods have since been modified, and successfully proven in a trial. The first cancellation was due to a faulty sensor.

After these technical problems, two hurricanes – Ian then Nicole – successively threatened the rocket, postponing the take-off for several weeks. Winds from Hurricane Nicole damaged a thin layer of sealant on top of the rocket, but NASA said Monday the risk was low.

In general, the program is years behind schedule and the success of this mission, which costs several billion dollars, has become essential for NASA. Immediately after takeoff, the crew from the control center in Houston, Texas, will take over.

After two minutes, the two white boosters will fall back into the Atlantic. After eight minutes, the main stage will take turns. Then, about 1h30 after takeoff, the final push from the upper stage will place the Orion capsule towards the Moon, which will take several days.

There, it will be placed in a distant orbit for about a week, and will travel up to 64,000 km behind the Moon, a record for a habitable capsule. Finally, Orion will begin its return to Earth, testing its heat shield, the largest ever built. It must withstand a temperature half that of the Sun’s surface as it passes through the atmosphere.

If takeoff takes place on Wednesday, the mission should last 25 and a half days, with a landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.

New season

After the Saturn V rocket on the Apollo missions, then the space shuttles, SLS should lead NASA into a new era of human exploration, this time in deep space. In 2024, Artemis 2 will take astronauts to the Moon, which still hasn’t landed there. An honor reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, in 2025 at the earliest.

NASA then plans one mission per year to build a space station in orbit around the Moon, named Gateaway, and based on its south pole. The goal is to test new equipment there: suits, pressure vehicle, mini-power plant, use of ice water on site… All to establish a sustainable human presence there.

This experiment should prepare a manned flight to Mars, perhaps at the end of 2030. This trip, on a completely different scale, will take at least two years of repetition.

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