Nasa targets February for Artemis 1, the first mission to the Moon
Eva Deschamps / October 23, 2021
Nasa announced on Friday February to launch its mission Artemis 1, the first of the American program of return on the Moon.
This crucial mission was initially planned before the end of the year. It will sign the real launch of the Artemis program, with which the United States plan to send back humans on the Moon, including the first woman. This first test flight will be made without astronauts on board: the new giant rocket of Nasa, named SLS, will have to propel the Orion capsule towards the Moon,
before it returns to Earth. The launch window in February opens on the 12th and our last opportunity in February is the 27th, said Mike Sarafin, in charge of the mission, at a press conference. If needed, especially if the spacecraft is not ready in time, other launch windows are planned for March (12-27) and April (8-23). The rocket, with Orion at the top, is already fully assembled at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is almost 100 meters high.
This is a very important step. It shows that we are in the home stretch of the mission, said Mike Sarafin. In early January, the launcher will be brought to the launch pad for a dress rehearsal. The vehicle's tanks will be filled with fuel, and a mock countdown will be performed. After this test, the exact launch date will be announced. If the first half of the window in February is chosen, then the mission will last about six weeks. But if it is the second half, then the spacecraft will only spend about four weeks in space, Sarafin said. In March, SLS successfully performed a static engine test (called a hot fire) in Mississippi before the spacecraft was flown to Florida.
There, the Orion capsule was placed on top. Nasa officials would not say Friday if the schedule of the Artemis 2 mission was affected. For the moment, this second mission must take place in 2023, and will have this time astronauts on board. But they will not land. It is only during Artemis 3 that astronauts will put the foot on the lunar ground. The planned date was initially 2024, a deadline that now seems almost impossible to meet.