Artemis: Skies are clearing for Saturday’s moon landing – Science et Avenir

The stars seemed to be gradually lining up ahead of NASA’s new rocket launch to the Moon on Saturday, thanks to encouraging weather forecasts and resolution of technical issues that delayed the launch earlier this week.

Launch is scheduled for 14:17 local time (18:17 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but if necessary, it is possible within the next two hours.

The probability of favorable weather during this survey window is 60%.

“The weather looks good” and should not “get in the way,” Melody Lovin, who is in charge of analyzing the weather forecast, assured Thursday during a press conference.

NASA has also been working since Monday to resolve technical issues that caused the takeoff to be canceled at the last moment.

The first concerned the cooling of one of the four main engines, an operation necessary before they were ignited. By allowing some of the cryogenic fuel to reach the engines, they gradually reach the desired low temperature. But the collected data indicated a problem with one of them.

The engineers “performed an independent analysis which confirmed that it was a faulty sensor,” John Honeycutt, who is in charge of the rocket program, said during a press conference on Thursday.

In the future, this sensor will simply be ignored.

The second problem is solved: a leak that was observed on Monday when filling fuel tanks.

“We were able to find what we think is the source of the leak and fix it,” said launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson.

The Atémis 1 mission is a test flight without an astronaut on board. This will be the first launch of the SLS rocket, which has been in development for over a decade to become the most powerful rocket in the world.

“There is no guarantee that we will take off on Saturday, but we will try,” Mike Sarafin, in charge of the mission, said modestly.

If it does indeed launch that day, the Orion capsule on a rocket will spend nearly 38 days in space. It will be launched into orbit around the moon, approaching its surface by only 100 km.

It is on this ship that future astronauts will be located, including the first woman and the first person of color to walk on the moon, at the earliest in 2025.

The Artemis program, named after Apollo’s twin sister, is NASA’s new flagship program for many years to come. On the moon, the space agency wants to test the technology needed to send the first humans to Mars.

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