Artemis-1, also acknowledged as Mission-1 is the first unified test flight of NASA’s new Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft. The uncrewed spacecraft will be on a 25-day mission where it will orbit the moon before returning to Earth.
Artemis-1 was launched from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, on 16 th November 2022. The Orion spacecraft will travel for 25 days, 11 hours and 36 minutes at a speed of 24,500 mph or 32 times the speed of sound, producing temperatures of approximately 2,760 degrees Celsius, which is faster and hotter than the capsule experienced in 2014. The capsule is expected to make a return back to earth on 11 th of December 2022.
NASA’s Orion Program Manager Howard Hu, who is leading this phenomenal mission, states that 16 th November 2022 is a ‘historic day for human space flight’. Mr Hu said “humans could be active on the moon for ‘durations’ before 2030, with habitats to live in and rovers to support their work”. He also stated the mission was a dream, and that it was not just done only for the United States of America but for the world.
Whilst the Artemis-1 mission is still considered as a test flight, and does not have any humans onboard, the Artemis-2 mission is expected to launch with a total of 4 crew members to orbit the moon. This mission will be the first crewed test flight to orbit the moon. Artemis-3 has also been planned as a ‘lunar landing mission’, which is hoped to put humans once again on the surface of the moon in 2025. This would mark 53 years since the last manned landing on the moon in 1972 on the Apollo 17.
Moreover, the long-standing plan includes the use of technology as well as established research for the course of the Artemis mission which enables launches of a future crew mission to mars. NASA claims that the Artemis mission will be able to retrieve samples more strategically due to the advanced technology. The mission from moon to mars involves building a new space station in lunar orbit which then can be used as a habitable moon base for future.
The Orion spacecraft
The Orion capsule which is like the Apollo module is a conical shaped spacecraft and is designed significantly larger to endure longer missions. While the physics of traveling to and back from the moon remain the same in distance, the Orion is designed with stability and advanced technology, which allows the spacecraft to handle supersonic speeds.
The work on the Orion spacecraft began in 2006, costing 20 billion dollars. The spacecraft consists of four main elements: A crew module to carry astronauts, a European service system to supply propulsion and electrical power, a launch abort system that will propel Orion away from danger during a launch emergency and finally a spacecraft adapter that will attach the Orion to the Space Launch System rocket.
The structural backbone of a crew module is a pressure vessel made up of aluminum-lithium alloy and has a honeycomb structure, which maintains durability and reduces the weight of the craft.
Inside Orion’s console, there are 3 display screens and 67 physical switches to help communicate and monitor the spacecraft's functions. The systems on the spacecraft are designed in such a way to cope with the gravitational force in space.
The Orion crew survival system (OCSS) consists of a vibrant orange coloured space suit, increasing the astronaut’s mobility and comfortability.
During space travel, there are treacherous threats that can take place, such as solar particle events, which occurs when protons are released by the sun creating a well above the average thermal energy. Such threats, have high chances of increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer due to the high thermal radiation being emitted by the sun. In a situation like this, astronauts would climb down to a 3ft deep locker to guard themselves from any radiation exposure. NASA’s human-rating, systems engineering, and integration lead for the Orion crew module, Jason Hutt stated “If a radiation event occurs, all 4 crew will get into the lockers in the middle of the floor and build a ‘pillow fort’ or cargo around them”. This statement from Mr Hutt gives an instinct that astronauts can comfortably stay in the locker for as long as possible.
Is our future really in space? This mission will hopefully allow us to gain the knowledge, understanding and insight on whether life beyond Earth is possible or not. With technology and Science becoming so advanced, it opens many possibilities for what we once thought was impossible.