NASA capsule goes to the moon after being launched by giant new rocket

NASA capsule goes to the moon after being launched by giant new rocket
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) — A space capsule rocketed toward the moon for the first time in 50 years Wednesday, after NASA’s most powerful rocket thundered off at a dress rehearsal for astronaut flights.

There was no one on this first flight, only three test dummies. The capsule moves into a large orbit around the moon and then returns to Earth in about three weeks as the Pacific waters splash.

After years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, Space Launch System The rocket roared into the sky, ascended from Kennedy Space Center with 8.8 million pounds (4 million kilograms) of thrust, and accelerated to 160 km/h in seconds. The Orion capsule was perched atop and blasted out of Earth’s orbit toward the moon less than two hours into flight.

“It was pretty overwhelming,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “We’re going out to explore the skies, and that’s the next step.”

Moonshot follows nearly three months of irritating fuel leaks that cause the rocket to bounce between the hangar and the ramp. force back in by Hurricane Ian in late September, The rocket stood in place outside as Nicole passed with gusts of over 80 miles per hour (130 kph) last week. Although the wind may cause some damage, executives green light for launch.

An estimated 15,000 people filled the launch site to witness NASA’s long-awaited sequel, and thousands more lined up on the beaches and roads outside the gates. Project Apollo12 astronauts from 1969 and 1972 walked on the moon. Crowds also gathered outside NASA headquarters in Houston and Huntsville, Alabama to watch the show on giant screens.

The rocket took a giant trail of flames into space, with a glowing half moon and swaying buildings.

The takeoff marked the beginning of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, named after Apollo’s mythological twin brother. The space agency aims to send four astronauts around the moon on the next flight in 2024 and land humans there as early as 2025.

“For the Artemis generation, this is for you,” said launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, referring to anyone born after Apollo. “You’ve earned your place in history,” he later told his team.

The 322-foot (98-meter) SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA and has more propulsion than the space shuttle or the powerful Saturn V that carries humans to the moon. A series of hydrogen fuel leaks plagued the countdown tests as well as launch attempts in the summer. A new leak broke out at a new spot during refueling Tuesday night, but an emergency team tightened up the faulty valve in the pillow. Then a US Space Force radar station crashed, resulting in another scramble, this time to replace an ethernet switch.

“The rocket is alive. It squeaks. It makes venting noises. That’s pretty scary,” said Trent Annis, one of three people who entered the blast hazard zone to repair the leak. “My heart was pounding. My nerves were gone.”

Orion, more than 230,000 miles (370,000 kilometers) from Earth, should reach the moon by Monday. After approaching 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the Moon, the capsule will enter a very distant orbit that extends about 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers).

The $4.1 billion test flight is scheduled to take 25 days, roughly the same day the crew will board the plane. The space agency plans to push the limits of spacecraft and expose problems before the astronauts step in. The test dummies – NASA calls them moonikins – are equipped with sensors to measure things like vibration, acceleration and cosmic radiation.

Nelson warned that “things will go wrong” during this demo. Although initial indications were that the boosters and engines were performing well, a few minor problems arose early in the flight.

“Personally, I’m not going to rest well until I can safely splash and recover,” said mission manager Mike Sarafin.

The rocket was supposed to make its test flight in 2017. Government watchdogs estimate that NASA will spend $93 billion on the project by 2025.

Ultimately, NASA hopes to establish a lunar base and send astronauts to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s.

Many hurdles still need to be overcome. The Orion capsule will take astronauts only to lunar orbit, not to the surface.

NASA has hired Elon Musk’s SpaceX to develop Starship, the 21st-century answer to Apollo’s lunar lander. The Starship will carry astronauts back and forth between Orion and the lunar surface, at least on its maiden voyage in 2025. The plan is to put Starship, and eventually other companies’ landing craft, into lunar orbit, ready for use when new Orion crews arrive. .

Duke University historian Alex Roland questions the value of manned spaceflight, resurrecting a debate raised in the 1960s, saying that robots and remote-controlled spacecraft can do the job more cheaply, efficiently and safely.

“Over all these years, no evidence has emerged to justify our investment in manned spaceflight – other than the prestige that this conspicuous consumption entails,” he said.

NASA is waiting for this test flight to be over before introducing the astronauts on the next flight and those who will follow in the footsteps of Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Most of NASA’s troop of 42 active astronauts and 10 trainees were not even born when Apollo 17 moonwalkers Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt closed the period next month 50 years ago.

“We’re jumping out of our space suits with excitement,” astronaut Christina Koch said before launching.

After nearly a year of the International Space Station mission and an all-female spacewalk, Koch, 43, is on NASA’s shortlist for a flight to the moon. A year ago, 35-year-old astronaut Kayla Barron finally witnessed her first rocket launch, not counting her own rocket.

“I was gasping and tearing up,” Barron said. “What an amazing achievement for this team.”


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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