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The Artemis I mission is ready to launch.
That’s the conclusion of NASA’s Flight Readiness Review conducted Monday. The study was an in-depth assessment of the readiness of the 322-foot-tall (98-meter-tall) stack that currently houses the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft sitting on the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. .
The Artemis team is targeting its first two-hour launch window from 8:33 am ET to 10:33 am ET on Monday, August 29. Backup release windows are on September 2nd and September 5th.
A “go” following a flight readiness review is a positive sign that things are on track for the mission, but there are still factors that could impact when it lifts off the pad next week, including bad weather.
The mission list is minimal after the rocket’s previous test rounds on the launch pad during wetsuit rehearsals, which simulated every step of the launch without lifting off. There is one open item the team will test on launch day, said Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager.
The hydrogen kick start, used to keep the engines warm, did not occur during the final wet dress rehearsal, so the process is now part of the launch countdown. Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Kennedy Space Center’s Artemis I launch director, said the test will occur at a “quiet point” before the final countdown.
The rocket stack arrived at the launch pad on August 17 after a 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) ride from the Vehicle Assembly Building on one of the giant Apollo-era NASA crawlers, as space shuttles and Apollo Saturn V rockets once did.
An uncommissioned Artemis I will be launched on a mission beyond the Moon and back to Earth. Once it’s launched, the spacecraft will travel 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers) in 42 days to reach a far retrograde orbit around the Moon. Artemis I will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on October 10. Orion’s return to Earth will be faster and hotter than any spacecraft has ever experienced.
The Orion spacecraft will travel farther than any human-made spacecraft, reaching 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) beyond the far side of the moon, according to NASA.
There are no humans on board, but Orion will carry 120 pounds (54.4 kilograms) of memorabilia, including toys, Apollo 11 items and three mannequins.
Seated in the Orion commander’s seat is Commander Moonkin Composites, a suitable mannequin from which to gather information about what a future human crew might experience on a lunar mission. The mannequin will wear the new Orion Crew Survival System suit designed for astronauts to wear during launch and re-entry. The suit has two radiation sensors.
The mission will launch NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and land the first woman and first man on the lunar surface by 2025 — eventually paving the way for human exploration of Mars.
Artemis I will also carry a number of science experiments, some of which will be installed once the rocket and spacecraft arrive at the launch pad.
This week, the Artemis team will open the hatch to Orion one more time to install a plush Snoopy doll, which will serve as the mission’s zero-gravity indicator. Once the spacecraft reaches the microgravity environment of space, Snoopy’s crew will float through the capsule.
Bob Cabana, associate administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., watched Apollo 13 launch as a young midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I never dreamed I’d be the director of the Kennedy Space Center or become the astronaut I am now,” Cabana said. “I am a product of the Apollo generation, look what it did for us. I can’t wait to see what comes from Generation Artemis because I think it will be more inspiring than what Apollo did. We were able to see all of that work during today’s review and it’s rewarding to know that we’re ready to do this.
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