Artemis: Going Back To The Moon

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Going Back To The Moon in 2022

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50 years ago America’s last apollo astronauts left the moon in the five decades since apollo 17we have built space stations space shuttles and space telescopes and sent probes further than the edge of our solar system. All this time we humans have remained locked inside low earth orbit but today with the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built are on the cusp of thrusting man and woman back out of low earth orbit and onto the lunar surface once again this is an inside look at the groundbreaking Artemis program the rockets the spacecraft and the people blazing a new trail to the moon mars and beyond the first step.

The launch between apollo and Artemis there are a lot of similarities and some of that’s just mostly based on physics especially looking at the capsules the same shape big rockets things like that but program program-wise there’s a huge difference is not just going for flags and footprints the Artemis program is expanding upon what we did in the apollo era we want to go to the lunar surface we want to build an outpost.

We want to live on the moon in order to understand what it will take us to go to mars it’s a much more deliberate approach to lunar exploration than the apollo was in the next decade NASA envisions the beginnings of a long-term settlement on the moon one in which a rotating cast of astronauts lives in a modular base camp mining water and other resources from the moon itself all while performing the kind of science that will help us in our quest to colonize mars so the success of Artemis one for the future of space exploration is really foundation of this planet-hopping journey into the future begins in 2022 with the scheduled launch of Artemis one the first test flight of NASA’s newest most ambitious rocket yet the space launch system or slsit all starts here it starts with the transportation system tipped with the Orion crew capsule that transportation system stretches 322 feet from top to bottom and weighs nearly 6million pounds the rocket is so massive that NASA had to re-engineer its legendary launch pad39b at Kennedy space center just to accommodate it.

39b was there during apollo and was the launch site for more than 50 space shuttle missions but it didn’t have the right stuff for Artemis the launchpad is more than just a concrete platform it is part of a larger exploration ground system or elsewhere the rocket is assembled transported and ultimately launched from each of these elements needed a major physical and technological overhaul beginning with the vav or vehicle assembly building when the vehicle is being stacked we use platforms that basically surround the vehicle so the technicians could do all the testing and all the assembly of the vehicle there are now10 levels of platforms that were fabricated and installed just to process the ottoman’s rocket.

once assembled the rocket will be coupled to its launcher and chauffeured 4.2 miles to the launch pad atop a newlyrestored and fortified crawlertransporterthe crawler transporter was a piece ofequipment that was created back in theapollo programthe new sls vehicle weights a lot morethan the apollo vehicle and a lot more than the shuttleonce the rocket reaches the launch padit will be surrounded by three recently installed 600 foot tall lightning towers a technological shield against extreme weather that neither the apollo missions nor the space shuttles ever had below the rocket a redesigned flame trenchis the front line of defense against the sls’s massive burst of energy its walls have been covered with one hundred thousand heat resistant bricksand in the middle of this 57 foot wide43 foot tall trench is the flamedeflectora newly constructed tower of engineered steel plates positioned precisely at a58 degree angle its job to protect the rocket by deflecting heat and pressure away fromthe launch padif we didn’t have a flame deflector th forces of the flame will go down andcome back to the rocket and destroy therocketand heat and pressure aren’t the onlyforces that could threaten the rocketthe flame trench is also there to dampenthe 176 decibel blast of sound comingfrom the enginesa 450 000 gallon water tank will beginemptying into the flame trench at a rateof some one million gallons per minuteseconds before liftoff.

It takes a lot of imagination to be able to build this kind of stuff for the Artemis mission using apollo’s Saturn rockets was never an option one of the biggest difference between apollo and Artemis is we’re trying to get to the south pole apollo did some fantastic science but it was all in the equatorial regions of the near side of the moon and that was where apollo could get to to the south pole takes more fuel more power and a mission plan that has never been attempted before the south pole of the moon you have permanently shadowed craters because the sun is very oblique at the bottom so you get areas where that never see sunlight where we might find water ice volatile chemicals Artemis one’s unmanned 26-day mission will chart a path for future Artemis astronauts, but it is the effort it takes to get off the earth in those first few minutes of flight that is the reason the SLS is so massive and complex.

The sls rocket is an integrated system of multiple elements that are coming together we have two boosters those are solid rocket boosters and then we have the core stage which is a liquid engine stage and then we have the upper stage so you actually light everything up you get all that thrust going and then you pull the hold down bolts off and it jumps off the pads.

The two boosters give us over sixmillion pounds of thrust for the firsttwo minutes and at that point then itseparates from the core stage and thenthe core stage then goes on for anothersix minutes giving us an additional overtwo million pounds of thrust so thatgets us into low earth orbitfrom there the interim cryogenicpropulsion stage takes over and deliversorion into lunar orbitthe engines that will propel oriontoward the moon aren’t the only onesbuilt into the rocketthere are also multiple rocket motorsbuilt into the launch abort systemwhich is designed to pull the crewcapsule to safety in case of emergency, and the orion spacecraft itself has onemain and eight auxiliary enginessince this rocket has never flown beforeeach of these elements had to go througha rigorous test procedure prior toassemblyone of the first was to confirm that thecore stages 500 000 gallon liquidhydrogen tank could withstand thechanges in pressure it might experienceduring a missionwe have hundreds of load cells that weapply onto the hydrogen tank itself andit twists and turns and stretches thetankthe tank reaches the target pressure asplanned but the team wants to find outjust how far they can push it[Music]it’s one of our engineers dreams theylove breaking things.

As launch day approaches NASA tests the engines which will play key roles in getting Artemis to the moon they fire up Orion’s launch abort and attitude control motors built into the tip of the rocket, and Orion’s main engine and eight auxiliary engines then it’s the solid rocket boosters turn, each of these engines passes its hot fire test and last but not least the core stage would finally be anchored into a test stand and ignited the core stage is the backbone of the SLS rocket without the core stage you wouldn’t be able to launch this mission to the lunar surface inside the 212-foot tall core stage are the brains of the SLS.

Its flight computers and the base of the core stage is its broad four rs-25 engines six barges worth of cryogenic propellants are loaded into the core stages liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks the countdown begins water gushes into the flame trench once and then the burn is supposed to last 485 seconds but just over a minute in and mcfa major component failure and we got to shut down personnel.

The flight software did exactly what it was supposed to do it shut the engines down because it detected that we were violating one of our limits the engineers get to work on the problem and returned to the test stand just two months later in this test the engine successfully burned through more than 700 000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as planned the core stage was ready for the launch pad and the team was ecstatic it was a very exciting day.

After years of development and testing the different components of Artemis one are brought together at last at the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy space centre in Florida.

When we’re assembling the spacecraft and the rocket and putting it all together you have to do it very deliberately because in flight there’s an extreme amount of loads there’s a lot of vibration you have to ensure there are no loose connections that are going to come apart in all of that violent shaking assembling the rocket takes months the power of some nine million pounds of thrust will be felt on every bolt every electrical connection every fuel line in the rocket that surge of energy will be carried all the way to the top of the SLS in the new Orion space capsule atop Artemis one Orion is following a trail blazed by the apollo space capsule the similarities between the two only go so far while apollo could hold three astronauts for 13 days orion can hold four astronauts for up to 21 days it’s 1.5 times larger than apollo and unlike its predecessor which only flew men under six feet tall.

Orion is designed for a diverse astronaut core of men and women apollo right they were using a very small pool of candidates small in both physical sense and the numerical sense for Orion we actually designed it from a fifth percentile female to a 95thpercentile male we don’t have to restrict the size of our astronaut pool or the future for exploration Artemis 1 engineers will be keeping a close eye on Orion’s crew but on this flight the crew won’t be humans inside Orion on Artemis 1 there going to be a few human humanoid features one of them the moonikin as they’ve been calling him is a fully outfitted crash test dummy in addition apair of phantom torsos nicknamed Helga and Zohar will be on board to evaluate an experimental vest designed to protect astronauts from the elevated radiation levels they may encounter in space believe there’s over 1200 sensors outfitted on orion to record things like the temperatures and the vibrations and the loads there’ll also be radiation sensors inside the cabin so we’ll be able to measure a bunch of what the crew will experience in the future.

With the rocket now standing tall in the vehicle assembly building the day when it will be transported to the launch pad and ignited draws closer that day may change the course of human exploration for decades to come it has already changed the lives of thousands of people who have worked onit to date it’s a beautiful rocket, I think a lot of people will be looking way up in the sky looking at how tall this rocket is and just be completely amazed finally seeing Orion on top of the rocket it’s just kind of wow we did it like it’s all finally come together there are thousands of people that have been working on this for years myself included and to see it all come together finally it’s like a huge validation. it’ll be a great day when we see that first Artemis launch and everyone across the whole country needs to have a huge amount of pride for not only that day but also for what the future means for America, this is America’s rocket.

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