UPDATE 0721 UTC: Success! NASA has taken the first step back to the Moon. Read more here.
Third time’s the charm? After two failed attempts, NASA plans to launch its mega Moon rocket early Wednesday from Florida, less than a week after the giant rocket battled a hurricane.
“Our time is coming. And we hope it’s Wednesday,” said Mike Sarafin, manager of the delayed Artemis 1 mission, at NASA headquarters.
The weather promises to be good, with an 80 percent chance of opening in the two-hour window that begins Wednesday 1:04 am EST (Wednesday 6:04 am GMT, or Wednesday 5:04 pm AEDT).
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As expected, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the first female administrator of NASA, was given the opportunity on Tuesday afternoon to start a mission.
The Artemis 1 mission, a test flight without astronauts, represents the first step in the US space agency’s plan to settle on the Moon, and learn from there to prepare for a future mission to Mars in the 2030s.
Named after Apollo’s sister in Greek mythology, the new space program comes 50 years after humans last set foot on the moon.
It will be the first launch of a 32-story Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful NASA has ever built.
The countdown has already begun at the Kennedy Space Center, as the orange and white behemoth awaits its maiden flight.
The launch comes less than a week after Hurricane Nicole passed, which the rocket endured outside of its launch pad.
The storm damaged the thin caulk-like cable that surrounds the Orion crew capsule on top of the rocket, causing it to overheat. However, NASA said on Monday that this posed a low risk.
Two backup days are possible, if needed, on November 19 and 25.
Around 100,000 people are expected on the beach to watch the launch, with the rocket promising to light up the night.
Andrew Trombley, an astronaut from St. Louis, Missouri, is eagerly anticipating a successful pickup after several unsuccessful attempts at installation.
“I’ve been down here a few times to watch this go up and stop it, this is like, like, the third trip down here for this, so I’m glad to see it go,” he said. network engineer.
“I was too young to fulfill Apollo’s mission, so…I wanted to be here alone.”
The opening has attracted many tourists, as well as local people.
Kerry Warner, 59, a grandmother and retired teacher who lives in Florida, was pushed to leave, which she said “is part of America and what America is about.”
“Third time’s the charm, we hope.”
The far side of the Moon
At the end of September, the rocket was moved back to its yard to be protected from another hurricane, Ian.
Before the season, the opening two rounds were canceled for technical reasons.
The first failure was related to a faulty sensor, and the second to a fuel leak when filling the rocket tanks. It operates at very cold, extreme temperatures with oxygen and hydrogen.
NASA replaced the seal and modified the system to minimize vibration and heat.
The Orion capsule will be loaded with two boosters and four powerful engines under the first stage, which will be removed after a few minutes.
After the final push from the surface, the capsule travels smoothly, taking several days to reach its destination.
Instead of landing on the Moon, it will orbit the moon, traveling 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) beyond the far side – further than any other spacecraft to date.
Finally, Orion will begin its return journey. When passing through space, the capsule’s heat shield must withstand half as much heat as the surface of the Sun.
If takeoff takes place on Wednesday, the mission will take 25 and a half days, with a blast over the Pacific Ocean on December 11.
NASA is making progress after developing the SLS rocket for more than a decade. It will have invested more than $90 billion in its new lunar exploration program by the end of 2025, according to a public study.
Artemis 2 will include a flight to the Moon with an astronaut in 2024.
Boots on the ground should take place during Artemis 3, no later than 2025, with a crew to include the first woman and the first man of color on the Moon.
© Agence France-Presse