#WhatTheFAQ: To the moon and back with NASA’s Artemis 1. What is this rocket all about?

NASA launched Artemis 1 today, November 16, to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon for years to come 
Pic: EdexLive
Pic: EdexLive

The third time is clearly a charm for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as it successfully launched its Artemis 1 mission today, Wednesday, November 16 after two unsuccessful tries. This first mission in NASA's Artemis programme is an unmanned Moon orbiting mission. It is also the first flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the entire Orion spacecraft. The two-hour launch window opened at 1.04 am Eastern Standard Time (EST); that is, 11.34 am Indian Standard Time (IST), at the Launch Complex 39B of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, but the launch was delayed to 12.17 pm IST. 

When it comes to the primary goal of this mission, NASA aims to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon to not be dependent on Earth alone. “The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond,” states NASA website, adding, “The primary goals for Artemis I are to demonstrate Orion’s systems in a spaceflight environment and ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery before the first flight with crew on Artemis II.”

We decode the mission further in today's edition of What The FAQ.

What will the mission be like?
The mission's previous name was Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), but was later changed after the Artemis programme was established. The Orion capsule will be launched on this 26-42 day-long mission and will re-enter Earth while being shielded with its heat shields and splash down in the Pacific Ocean. The success of this mission will certify Orion and Space Launch Systems for future crewed lunar missions of the four-person Artemis 2 in 2024 and the two-person Artemis 3 in 2025. For the first time in fifty years, this is the third attempt to orbit the moon with an empty capsule.

What caused the delay in the launch?
The Artemis 1 was launched after previous flights were halted over the past three months owing to engine problems. NASA has since fixed the technical issues that caused the attempts in August and September to be aborted. The following launch opportunity was initially scheduled for September 27, 2022; however, tropical storm Ian and Hurricane Nicole further added to the delay, so, finally, on November 12, NASA set the launch date for the mission as November 16, 2022. 

What was the last mission to the moon?
The last lunar mission took place five decades ago in 1972 when Apollo 17's 12-day lunar mission took place between December 7 and 19. That was the final manned mission because the requirement for the significant financial outlay, according to Royal Museums Greenwich, led NASA to discontinue manned moon missions.  

Moon to Mars: What will the future missions of NASA be?
The successful completion of this mission will lead to the initiation of the next phase of human space exploration by NASA. They will start testing systems near the Moon that will be required for missions to the Moon and exploration of other planets like Mars. NASA’s website states this about their future missions: “NASA and its partners will use the gateway for deep-space operations including missions to and on the Moon with decreasing reliance on the Earth. Using lunar orbit, we will gain the experience necessary to extend human exploration farther into the solar system than ever before.”

What are the mission facts of Artemis 1 as shared by NASA?
- Launch: November 16, 2022
- Mission duration: 25 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes
- Total distance travelled: 1.3 million miles
- Speed of re-entry: 24,500 mph (Mach 32)
- Splashdown: December 11, 2022

For more details visit https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis-i

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