NASA Agency Lunar Artemis 1 It returned to Earth on Sunday, smashing through the upper atmosphere at over 24,000 miles per hour and enduring 5,000-degree re-entry hell before settling in a stellar Pacific Ocean to end a 25-hour test flight. days and 1.4 million miles to the Moon. and the ribs.
Descending under three massive parachutes, the 9-ton Orion capsule softly crashed into the water 200 miles west of Baja California at 12:40 a.m. EDT, 20 minutes after encountering the first traces of the atmosphere seen. at an altitude of 76 miles.
“I’m confused. It’s an unusual day,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “It’s historic because now we’re going back to deep space with a new generation.”
In a practical if unforeseen coincidence, the regression happened 50 years after Apollo 17’s last lunar landing in 1972 and just 10 hours after SpaceX. released A Japanese lunar module, first sent for purely commercial purposes, from Cape Canaveral.
“From Tranquility Base to Taurus-Littrow and the calm waters of the Pacific Ocean, the final chapter of NASA’s journey to the Moon is approaching,” NASA commentator Rob Navias said at the time of Orion’s disappearance. At Apollo 11 and 17 landing sites.
Nelson also spoke about Apollo, saying that President John F. Kennedy “surprised everyone in the Apollo generation and said we were going to achieve what we thought was impossible.”
“It’s a new day,” Nelson said. “A new day has dawned. And the generation of Artemis takes us there.
A joint Navy-NASA recovery team was in sight of the sprinkler Orion to inspect the burnt capsule and, after a final round of testing, fired it onto the flooded deck of the amphibious ship USS Portland.
After pumping out seawater, Orion will rest in a protective cradle for the return trip to Naval Base San Diego and, eventually, a trip to Kennedy Space Center.
Re-entry and warm-up were the ultimate goals of the Artemis 1 test flight, giving engineers confidence that the 16.5-foot-wide Avcoat heat shield will perform as intended when four astronauts return from the Moon after the next flight. Artemis in 2018. 2024.
Mission manager Mike Saravin said Friday that heat shield testing was indeed a priority for the Artemis 1 mission, “and it’s our first and foremost focus for a reason.”
“There is no arc-jet or air-powered thermal facility here on Earth capable of repeating entry at supersonic speed with a heat shield of this size,” he said. “It’s a brand new heat shield design and it’s a key safety feature. It was designed to protect the spacecraft and (future astronauts)…so the heat shield has to work.
And it clearly did, with no visible signs of major damage. Likewise, the three main parachutes deployed normally, as did the airbags needed to stabilize the capsule in the event of slight perimeter inflation.
A successful test flight is “what we need to prove this vehicle so we can fly it with a crew,” said Deputy Administrator Bob Cabana, the shuttle’s former commander. “So here’s the next step, and I can’t wait…a few little hiccups along the way, but (overall) it worked perfectly.”
released November 16 In the first flight of NASA’s massive new Space Launch System rocket, an unmanned Orion capsule was launched from Earth orbit to the Moon to perform a series of grueling tests, bringing propulsion systems to life, navigation, food and computing. space out. environment.
Orion flew halfway through a “very retrograde orbit” around the Moon that took it farther from Earth – 268,563 miles – than any previous human-classified spacecraft. Two critical launches of its main engine created a low flyby of the lunar surface last Monday, which put the rover on track for a Sunday landing.
NASA originally planned to take the ship west of San Diego, but anticipation of a cold front bringing stronger winds and rougher seas led mission officials to move the site from landing south about 350 miles, to a point south of Guadalupe Island about 200 miles. West. Baja California.
After a final course correction maneuver early Sunday, the Orion spacecraft returned to the distinct atmosphere at 400,000 feet at 12:20 p.m.
The reentry coil is designed to ensure that Orion bounces once at the top of the atmosphere like a flat stone hopping across calm waters before its final descent. As predicted, Orion dropped from 400,000 feet to an altitude of about 200,000 feet in just two minutes, then climbed back up to about 295,000 feet before resuming its computer-guided fall toward Earth.
Within a minute and a half of entering, atmospheric friction began to push temperatures through the heat shield of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit – half the temperature of the visible surface of the Sun – shrouding the spacecraft. in an electrically charged plasma that blocked communications with the Sun’s flight instruments. control for five years, approx. year. Minutes.
After a two-and-a-half-minute miscommunication during its second descent into the lower atmosphere, the spacecraft continued to slow as it approached the landing site, slowing to about 650 mph, about the speed of sound, about 15 minutes. after starting the input.
Finally, at an altitude of about 22,000 feet and a speed of just under 300 miles per hour, small cyclist parachutes deployed and the protective canopy was pulled up with three pilot strips. Finally, in a welcome sight for the close recovery team, the capsule’s main parachutes lifted off at about 5,000 feet, slowing the Orion to about 18 mph for a splashdown.
The duration of the expedition was 25 days, 10 hours and 52 minutes.
“It was an incredible mission. We achieved all of our major mission objectives,” said Michele Zaner, Mission Planning Engineer at Orion. “The car performed as well as we had hoped and even better in many ways.
“This is the greatest distance ever flown by a human classified spacecraft and required a lot of complex analysis and mission planning. To see it all fall into place and have such a successful test mission was amazing.
As the flight controllers experienced as yet unexplained failures in their power system, the initial “burlesque” with star tracking and degraded performance of the phased array antenna, the Orion spacecraft and service module built by ESA have generally worked well, achieving almost everything. of its main objectives.
If all goes well, NASA plans to follow up the Artemis 1 mission by sending four astronauts around the moon on the program’s second flight – Artemis 2 – in 2024. The first moon landing will take place during 2025- 26, when NASA announces that it will set foot first. Introduce the next woman and man on the moon near the South Pole.
While the 2024 flight seems feasible based on the results of the Artemis 1 mission, the lunar landing of Artemis 3 faces a more difficult schedule, requiring good performance during the Artemis 3 mission and the development and successful tests of a lunar module that NASA pays SpaceX $2.9. billion to develop.
The probe, a variant of the company’s Starship rocket, has yet to fly into space. But that will require several robotic resupply trips to low Earth orbit before heading to the moon to await a rendezvous with astronauts launched aboard the Orion capsule.
SpaceX and NASA have provided some details on the development of the Starship lunar module, and it remains to be seen when it will be ready to safely transport astronauts to the moon.