NASA’s Artemis I mega-moon rocket arrives at launch pad for launch

Engineers and technicians have been busy checking out the cash registers and final testing of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket stack made a few trips to the launch pad in March and June for its wet dress rehearsal, a test that simulated every step of the launch without takeoff.

Tuesday night the real happening started.

The Artemis team is targeting the first two-hour launch window from 8:33 a.m. ET to 10:33 a.m. ET on Monday, August 29. There are backup launch windows on September 2 and September 5.

The massive 98-foot stack embarked on a slow four-mile (6.4-kilometer) ride aboard one of NASA’s giant Apollo-era crawlers from the assembly building to the launch pad—much like the shuttle missions and Apollo Saturn V— rockets once did.

The 6.6 million pound (3 million kilograms) crawler carried the towering rocket stack and its mobile launcher with a top speed of 1 mile per hour (1.6 kilometers per hour). The rocket stack arrived at the launch pad at 7:30 a.m. ET Wednesday morning after a nearly 10-hour journey.

The iconic crawler is one of two that have been operating at the Kennedy Space Center for more than 50 years. First commissioned in 1965, the huge transporters can carry 18 million pounds (8.2 million kilograms) each, or the weight of more than 20 fully loaded 777 aircraft, according to NASA. The tracks are so wide that a professional baseball diamond could sit on top.

Now that the rocket stack has arrived, engineers and technicians will prepare the rocket’s systems for launch.

The unmanned Artemis I will launch on a mission beyond the moon and return to Earth. Once launched, the spacecraft will enter a distant retrograde orbit around the moon, traveling 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers) in 42 days. Artemis I will crash into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on October 10. Orion’s return will be fast and hotter than any spacecraft has ever experienced on its way back to Earth.

The Orion spacecraft will travel further than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown, reaching 64,000 kilometers further than the far side of the moon, according to NASA.

Snoopy, mannequins and Apollo 11 items will swing by the moon aboard Artemis I

There are no people on board, but Orion will carry 120 pounds (54.4 kilograms) of mementos, including toys, Apollo 11 items and three mannequins.

Commander Moonikin Campos sits in the commander’s seat of Orion, a suitable mannequin capable of collecting data on what future human crews may experience during a lunar voyage. The mannequin will wear the new Orion Crew Survival System suit designed for astronauts to wear during launch and reentry. The suit has two radiation sensors.

Two “phantoms” named Helga and Zohar will ride in other Orion seats. These mannequin torsos are made of materials that mimic a woman’s soft tissue, organs, and bones. The two torsos have more than 5,600 sensors and 34 radiation detectors to measure how much radiation exposure occurs during spaceflight.

This mission kicks off NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon and land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface by 2025 — eventually making way for human exploration of Mars. .

Artemis I will also conduct a number of science experiments, some of which will be installed once the rocket and spacecraft arrive at the launch pad.

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