Speaker 1: NASA is going back to the moon for the first time in 50 years after years of development and some nail biting delays, the space agency just launched Artemis one on its 1.3 million mile mission around the moon, the space launch system. NASA’s most powerful rocket ever blasted off from Kate Canaveral in Florida, ready to take the Orion spacecraft beyond the far side [00:00:30] of the moon. It’s the furthest we’ve ever sent a human rated vehicle into space, and while there were no humans on board this launch, it’s paving the way for a moon landing within just a few years, the first time since the Apollo era. This is a truly historic moment and there are a lot of exciting firsts. So let’s break it down. The mission timeline, the special payloads on board and how we’ll see the first up close pictures of the moon.
Speaker 1: [00:01:00] The Artemis program has been in development for more than a decade, and there were delays with this first launch right down to the wire. But after comprehensive safety checks, the Artemis one rocket finally lifted off from Launchpad 39 B at the Kennedy Space Center, the same launch complex that saw the satin five launches during the Apollo era. Within seconds, the rocket had [00:01:30] cleared its launch tower and within minutes the spacecraft was on its way to the moon. With the Artemis program, Nassar is actually sending humans back to the moon for the first time. Since the Apollo mission landed in 1972, it’ll land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface as soon as 2025, and it’s a long-term program. NASA wants to get to the moon with Artemis, then build an outpost there for longer duration missions into deep space and onto places [00:02:00] like Mars.
Speaker 1: The backbone of Artemis is the Orange Space Launch System Rocket. That’s the huge heavy lift booster with the Orion crew vehicle that sits on top. The Artemis one launch in Florida. That’s the first of three launches in the initial stages of the program. This first uncured mission Artemis one is testing the capabilities of the SLS, Orion and all the flight support systems. Artemis two. The first crude mission will fly by the far side of the moon without [00:02:30] landing no earlier than 2024. Then Artemis three will send humans to touchdown on the moons South Pole, potentially as early as 2025. I’ve actually done a full rundown on the whole Artemis program going behind the scenes at NASA’s me shoot assembly facility in New Orleans and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see how this historic spacecraft was built. It was really cool to see, so make sure you check out my other video on that.
Speaker 1: [00:03:00] While OEMs one isn’t actually landing on the moon, it’s still an incredibly complex mission with a lot of maneuvers that need to happen in perfect sequence. Here’s how the launch went down. OEM one blasted off with the help of two solid rocket boosters and four Rs 25 engines producing more than 8 million pounds of thrust. Rocket launches are often called a controlled explosion, and it’s easy to see why those solid rocket boosters [00:03:30] are responsible for almost 80% of the thrust, but they were spent in the first two minutes, so goodbye rocket boosters by the eight minute mark. Artemis had also burned through all its liquid propellant, so the main engines cut off and the orange core stage separated, leaving the Orion crew vehicle to orbit the earth alone. Next up comes the trans lunar injection burn about an hour and a half after launch. That’s when Orion uses the engine on the interim cryogenic propulsion [00:04:00] stage or ICPs.
Speaker 1: Yes, NASA loves acronyms to get a boost out into deep space. It hits speeds of more than 22,000 miles an hour escaping Earth’s orbit and setting its precise path to the moon. With that job done, Orion no longer needs its propulsion stage, so they separate the ICPs drops off cube sets into space, and the Orion vehicle makes the rest of the journey to the moon alone. At this stage, it’s kind of like a long haul flight. Artisana [00:04:30] had a very busy takeoff, but now it’s time to dim the lights and hit the cruising stage. It takes Orion several days to reach the moon, but during that time, NASA is constantly checking systems and making sure everything’s okay. We’ll also see images from the flight thanks to GoPro. Cameras installed on the solar array wings and several cameras inside the crew capsule. NASA says those cameras will help keep an eye on everything that’s happening with the spacecraft, but they’ll also beam images [00:05:00] back to Earth to give us a glimpse of the action and hopefully our first view of the moon.
Speaker 1: When Orion arrives at the moon, it’ll get up close and personal doing a powered fly by just 60 miles above the lunar surface. Then it’ll use the moon’s gravity to enter what’s known as a distant retrograde orbit around the moon. Retrograde means it’ll orbit around the moon in the opposite direction that the moon orbits around Earth and distant essentially just means it’s at a high [00:05:30] altitude above the moon. It’ll fly about 40,000 miles out past the moon and its furthest point. NASA says that’s the furthest a human rated spacecraft has ever flown from Earth. There are actually advantages to this being an uncured mission. NASA doesn’t have to worry about keeping astronauts alive or getting them home by a certain time. That combined with the fact that the distant retrograde orbit only uses a little fuel means that Orion can spend longer in deep space putting its systems to [00:06:00] the test and collecting important data about space flight.
Speaker 1: But while there are no humans on board, Artemis one, NASA did send some passengers up on this mission. The first is a suited up mannequin called Commander Munich, and Campo Water pun, it will have sensors on its spacesuit and in its cruise seat to measure its acceleration and the vibrations experience during flight. There will also be two mannequin torsos called Helga and Zohar, which have been fitted with thousands of [00:06:30] sensors and made with materials to mimic human flesh and bones like Commander Moonen. Those torsos will be tasked with measuring radiation experience during flight, and because this is the year 2022, there will also be Alexa capability on board. So you’ll be able to ask your smart speaker where Artemis is today, and the final tech demo built into Orion WebEx video conferencing from Cisco. That’s right, you can’t even use the I’m in [00:07:00] literal space.
Speaker 1: Excuse for missing your 9:00 AM meeting anymore. So in between making mannequin video calls and adding to their Alexa shopping lists, how will Helga Zohar and the Commander make their way back to earth? Well, Orion will orbit around the moon for a number of weeks. The exact time depends on complex orbital mechanics, but when it’s time to return, Orion will do a second close flyby of the moon to get a gravity assist slingshotting back to Earth, and when it gets back, it’ll enter Earth’s atmosphere [00:07:30] at close to 25,000 miles an hour, pushing its heat shield to temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. When it’s 25,000 feet or about seven and a half kilometers above Earth, it’ll start deploying a series of parachutes, slowing its descent to 20 miles an hour before it splashes down within eyesight of its recovery ship off the coast of San Diego and California.
Speaker 1: This mission is set to tell us a lot about what lunar exploration looks like in the 21st century. [00:08:00] After all the last time we did this was the 1970s this time with Artemis named for the Greek goddess and sister of Apollo. We’ll fly further past the moon. We’ll learn more about the pressures astronaut’s face in deep space, and we’ll hopefully get some truly beautiful images taken of our closest lunar neighbor. This is the next step forward in our own new space age, and we all get a front row seat. But I wanna know, what do you think of this [00:08:30] launch? Is this the first one you’ve watched? Maybe you’ve seen some SpaceX launches, or you saw the shuttle launches when you were younger. You get bonus points if you watched an Apollo launch. That’s impressive. Let me know when the comments below, and in the meantime, make sure you subscribe because we’ll have plenty more content coming on this whole Artemis mission, including those first images, so you don’t wanna miss out. In the meantime, I’m Claire Riley for cnet, and today has been a pretty good day in space.