NASA started the countdown to the Space Launch System (SLS) over the weekend. The giant rocket is scheduled to make its first launch attempt on Monday, August 29 and complete an unmanned flight around the moon with the Orion space capsule. The start is scheduled for 2:33 p.m. German time, which is the earliest possible time of a two-hour start window.
Difficulties are not expected at this time. The US space agency said shortly after the countdown began that NASA was not working on any issues that could jeopardize the launch. In addition, the weather forecast for Monday is favorable. Lightning struck the towers of the launch pad on Saturday. According to NASA, however, these were intercepted by the lightning protection system and, according to detailed investigations, would have had no effect on the SLS, Orion or the systems on the ground.
Tested everything that can be tested
The space agency had previously stated that everything that could be tested had been tested up to the start. “We think our systems are in really good shape aside from the one activity of cooling down the engines,” NASA’s Sharon Cobb said in an interview, according to SpaceNews.
This refers to a “hydrogen kickstart” that could not be carried out during the last “wet dress rehearsal” of the giant SLS rocket in June due to a leak in a hydrogen spigot. That will be tested about five hours before launch, said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis-1 launch director.
The way (back) to the moon
Dubbed Artemis-1, the mission is the first in a series NASA is using to bring humans back to the moon—this time on a permanent basis, and not just for short visits. The first test flight is now unmanned, the space capsule is to orbit the moon for several weeks. After that, another unmanned launch is planned.
People will then circle the moon on Artemis-2 and the crew of Artemis-3 will then land. This is currently planned for the middle of the decade, but there are serious doubts about NASA’s timetable. The planned launch frequency is still significantly lower than the Apollo program, which the United States wanted to build on.
The start of NASA’s moon mission can be followed in the live stream: NASA will be live streaming throughout the day, starting at 6 a.m. CEST with the refueling of the rocket. If everything works, the first photos that the Orion space capsule took of Earth should be available from 11:30 p.m. CEST. The European Space Agency ESA, which is involved in the mission, is also planning a live transmission. heise online will report.
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