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NASA’s Mega Moon rocket is about to test launch to the Moon

NASA’s upcoming Moon mission called “Artemis I” is approaching its official launch date. The Orion spacecraft atop a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket – also known by NASA as the “Mega Moon Rocket” – will make the 6.4-kilometer journey from the Kennedy Assembly Building (VAB) to the platform launch 39B, weather permitting.

Deployment will begin at 5 p.m. local time, and the rocket will take approximately 11 hours to reach its destination, performed by Crawler-Transporter 2 at a rolling speed of 3 km/h, said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, director of the Crawler-Transporter 2. launch director of NASA’s Exploration Ground System Program at Kennedy, said at a press conference.

NASA's Mega Moon rocket is about to test launch to the Moon - 1

The Mega Moon rocket has been moved to the launch pad at Kennedy.

Once the spacecraft and rocket are positioned at the launch pad, engineers will spend about two weeks preparing for the drill to demonstrate that the rocket can be loaded with supercooled liquid propellants.

Blackwell-Thompson said the exercise is likely to take place on April 1, and the tanking operation is expected to begin on April 3. Engineers and technicians also practiced countdowns to check the rocket’s response to the end-of-flight situation, before the rehearsal ended, emptying the fuel tanks and preparing the rocket for a spin. back to VAB, it will take another 8 to 9 days.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft can hold up to four people, but it won’t have any on board when the Artemis I mission lifts off later this year. On future Artemis missions, Orion will ferry astronauts into space, assist them on missions to the Moon, and keep them safe during deep space re-entry.

SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA. It generates 15% more thrust during takeoff and ascent than the Saturn V rockets that flew in the space programs of the 1960s and 1970s, and the SLS will be able to carry more than 27 tons of cargo to the Moon. .

Once deployed – provided all tests are successfully completed – NASA will set an official launch date for Artemis I (currently scheduled to be no earlier than May 2022 in NASA’s launch schedule). ).

Artemis I is an unmanned mission that will fly thousands of miles beyond the Moon and then return to Earth in about three weeks. The mission’s sequel, Artemis II, will carry a crew to fly on the Moon, and the final stage of the program, Artemis III, will send humans to the Moon’s surface for the first time since the moon trip. of Apollo 17 in 1972.

With Artemis III, NASA will put the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon. This important milestone will also lay a major foundation for establishing a long-term human presence on the Moon, and will play a key role in an even more ambitious goal of space travel: to land the first humans to go to Mars.

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