BET À DAY
The date is finally approaching: Artemis 1, the first mission of the American program to return to the Moon, could take off as early as August 29, NASA announced on Wednesday.
< p>Two alternative dates are possible: September 2 or 5, the space agency also specified. The announcement was timely made on the anniversary of the landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the Moon, July 20, 1969.
More than half a century later, the Artemis program must mark the return of the Americans to this star, including the first woman and the first person of color.
However, Artemis 1 will not yet have an astronaut on board. The mission is intended to test NASA's new giant rocket, SLS, which will be its first flight, and the Orion capsule at its summit, where a crew will be installed from Artemis 2.
Take off must take place from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The capsule, once propelled by the rocket, will travel to the Moon, where it will orbit before returning to Earth.
< p>The mission, depending on the final launch date among the three announced, could last from 39 to 42 days.
Orion has already flown into space for the first time for a test, in 2014, launched at the time by a Delta IV rocket. She had circled the Earth twice, notably to test her heat shield.
But this time, the capsule will return from much further away and will therefore have to endure much more extreme conditions during its return to the Earth's atmosphere: a speed of nearly 40,000 km/h and a temperature “half as hot as the Sun”. “, underlined during a press conference Mike Sarafin, in charge of the mission at NASA.
In addition to this first objective, the mission must demonstrate the spacecraft's ability to operate in deep space and to be recovered after splashing down in the ocean at the end of the voyage.
The take-off of Artemis 1, originally scheduled for earlier this year, had to be postponed in order to complete a test on the launch pad, in June.
Artemis 2 is currently scheduled for 2024. The first mission with astronauts on board, it will not yet land on the Moon, but will simply go around it .
This honor will be reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, a mission scheduled for 2025 at the earliest.
Last time that men have traveled to the Moon dates back to Apollo 17 in 1972.