Nasa’s Artemis spacecraft reaches the Moon

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Mission controllers faced an anxious wait on Monday as they lost signal from the Orion rocket for 34 minutes during the manoeuvre

Nasa’s Artemis spacecraft reaches the Moon
The spacecraft needed to make a precise two minute burn on the dark side of the Moon so it could enter retrograde orbit
The spacecraft needed to make a precise two minute burn on the dark side of the Moon so it could enter retrograde orbit

Nasa’s Orion spacecraft reached the Moon’s orbit on Monday, flying over Tranquility Base where Neil Armstrong walked 53 years ago.

The Artemis mission launched its test flight last Wednesday, the first time an astronaut-class spacecraft has ventured into lunar orbit since the Apollo programme was cancelled.

The spacecraft, which is powered by an old space shuttle engine, needed to make a precise two-minute burn on the dark side of the Moon so it could enter retrograde orbit, where it will remain for six days.

Retrograde orbit means it will be travelling in the opposite direction to the anticlockwise direction that the Moon spins around the Earth. At closest approach it flew within 81 miles of the lunar surface.

Nasa lost the signal from Orion for 34 minutes as it swept behind the satellite, with mission controllers facing an anxious wait to find out if the manoeuvre had been successful.

Illustrator Embed

Artemis I – Return to the Moon

NASA SLS

ARTEMIS I

Launch: 2022

Days: 42

Orion capsule

(can carry

four crew)

Uncrewed mission to moon and back will test performance of Space Launch System (SLS) and safety of Orion spacecarft

98.2m

Core

stage

Solid rocket

booster

Return flight:

9-19 days

RS-25

engines

Launch

10 CubeSats

deployed

en route

Moon Orbit:

6-19 days

Outward flight:

8-14 days

ARTEMIS II

ARTEMIS III

Launch: 2024

Days: 10

Launch: 2025

Days: 30

First crewed test flight. Orion will take four astronauts beyond moon – further from Earth than humans have ever been, and complete lunar flyby before return

First moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. Three astronauts aboard Orion will dock with Lunar Gateway and remain in space for 30 days

ARTEMIS IV

ARTEMIS V

Launch: 2026

Days: 30

Launch: 2026

Days: 30

No lunar landing. Mission will deliver International Habitation Module (I-HAB) and four astronauts to Lunar Gateway

Mission will send four astronauts to Moon. Will also deliver a robotic arm system and ESA’s ESPRIT refuelling and comms module to Lunar Gateway

ARTEMIS I

NASA SLS

Launch: 2022

Days: 42

Orion capsule

(can carry

four crew)

Uncrewed mission to moon and back will test performance of Space Launch System (SLS) and safety of Orion spacecarft

98.2m

Core

stage

Solid rocket

booster

Return flight:

9-19 days

RS-25

engines

10 CubeSats

deployed

en route

Enter/exit

Moon orbit

Launch

Moon Orbit:

6-19 days

Outward flight:

8-14 days

ARTEMIS II

ARTEMIS III

Launch: 2024

Days: 10

Launch: 2025

Days: 30

First crewed test flight. Orion will take four astronauts beyond moon – further from Earth than humans have ever been, and complete lunar flyby before return

First moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. Three astronauts aboard Orion will dock with Lunar Gateway and remain in space for 30 days

ARTEMIS IV

ARTEMIS V

Launch: 2026

Days: 30

Launch: 2026

Days: 30

No lunar landing. Mission will deliver International Habitation Module (I-HAB) and four astronauts to Lunar Gateway

Mission will send four astronauts to Moon. Will also deliver a robotic arm system and ESA’s ESPRIT refuelling and comms module to Lunar Gateway

ARTEMIS I

NASA SLS

Launch: 2022

Days: 42

Solid rocket

booster

Core

stage

Orion capsule

(can carry four crew)

Uncrewed mission to moon and back will test performance of Space Launch System (SLS) and safety of Orion spacecarft

RS-25

engines

98.2m

10 CubeSats

deployed

en route

Enter/exit

Moon orbit

Launch

Return flight:

9-19 days

Moon Orbit:

6-19 days

Outward flight:

8-14 days

ARTEMIS II

ARTEMIS III

ARTEMIS IV

ARTEMIS V

Launch: 2024

Days: 10

Launch: 2026

Days: 30

Launch: 2026

Days: 30

Launch: 2025

Days: 30

No lunar landing. Mission will deliver International Habitation Module (I-HAB) and four astronauts to Lunar Gateway

First crewed test flight. Orion will take four astronauts beyond moon – further from Earth than humans have ever been, and complete lunar flyby before return

First moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. Three astronauts aboard Orion will dock with Lunar Gateway and remain in space for 30 days

Mission will send four astronauts to Moon. Will also deliver a robotic arm system and ESA’s ESPRIT refuelling and comms module to Lunar Gateway

Solid rocket

booster

Core

stage

Orion capsule

(can carry four crew)

NASA SLS

ARTEMIS I

Launch: 2022

Days: 42

RS-25

engines

Uncrewed mission to moon and back will test performance of Space Launch System (SLS) and safety of Orion spacecarft

98.2m

10 CubeSats

deployed

en route

Enter/exit

Moon orbit

Launch

Return flight:

9-19 days

Moon Orbit:

6-19 days

Outward flight:

8-14 days

ARTEMIS II

ARTEMIS III

ARTEMIS IV

ARTEMIS V

Launch: 2024

Days: 10

Launch: 2026

Days: 30

Launch: 2026

Days: 30

Launch: 2025

Days: 30

No lunar landing. Mission will deliver International Habitation Module (I-HAB) and four astronauts to Lunar Gateway

First crewed test flight. Orion will take four astronauts beyond moon – further from Earth than humans have ever been, and complete lunar flyby before return

First moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. Three astronauts aboard Orion will dock with Lunar Gateway and remain in space for 30 days

Mission will send four astronauts to Moon. Will also deliver a robotic arm system and ESA’s ESPRIT refuelling and comms module to Lunar Gateway

But at 1.25pm GMT the spacecraft regained contact with Earth and moved into an elliptical orbit which will eventually take it out into deep space, before the return journey home.

Zeb Scoville, Nasa flight director and the grandson of Alistair Cooke, the late broadcaster, said: “This is one of those days that you’ve been thinking about and dreaming about for a long, long time.

“This morning we just saw the Earth set behind the Moon as we take the next human rated vehicle around the moon, preparing to bring humans back there within a few years. This is a game changer.

“This is not a repeat of Apollo, we are going to be setting up there, doing the architecture and research which will give us the ability to explore and move beyond to Mars.

“We’re going to come back with the crew on Artemis II and then Artemis III will get us on to the surface.”

The propulsion system to get to the Moon is being provided by the European Service Module built in Germany by Airbus, which also supplies air and water to the crew and controls temperature.

Mission has a phantom female crew

For its return trip to Earth, it gets another gravity assist from the Moon to set it back on track for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on December 11.

Humans last walked on the Moon in December 1972, when the final Apollo mission touched down.

The crew comprised Commander Gene Cernan and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison “Jack” Schmitt who both walked on the lunar surface, while Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans orbited above.

The unmanned Artemis 1 mission has a phantom female crew – mannequin torsos made to mimic the human body – to find out how to help women survive the rigours of deep space flight.

Nasa has vowed to place the first woman on the lunar surface in 2025, but the female body is extremely vulnerable to space radiation – high speed particles which tear through DNA molecules, wreaking havoc internally.

A further mannequin, wearing the Orion Crew Survival System suit will also occupy the commander’s seat on the Artemis I mission, outfitted with sensors to provide data on what crew members may experience during flight.

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