Artemis I Launch: Timeline and Info

Issue 4, Volume 113

By Khandaker Mushfikuzzaman 

Humankind is going back to the moon for the first time in half a century. NASA’s Artemis program is a series of missions with the aim of advancing exploration of the Moon and ultimately expanding our boundaries of space travel. Sending the first woman and the first person of color to the Moon’s surface are among some of the objectives of the program. Others include taking steps toward establishing a permanent moon base and gathering further information to aid us in taking the bigger leap of sending the first person to Mars.

Artemis I is the first of the Artemis missions. Starting off slowly and cautiously, Artemis I will be the first flight test of NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Systems, which include the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS). SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built and will carry 10 small satellites in this non-crew mission. These satellites will carry out technological investigations that will provide a basis for deeper space explorations, such as the long-speculated mission to Mars.

Despite these foreseeing goals, it has proven to be more difficult than anticipated to get the mission started. The initial launch date was August 29 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, but the launch was scrubbed due to an engine bleed. Specifically, one of the four R-25 engines failed because of a failure to reach the high accuracy temperature NASA was looking for. The second attempt on September 3 was called off due to a liquid hydrogen leak during the fueling of the rocket. This issue was much larger than the one that occurred during the first attempt, exceeding a concentration of four percent.

NASA prepared to recover from the setbacks and began preparing for a late September launch. After completing work on the liquid hydrogen lines and testing and rehearsing fueling, SLS was prepared to launch on September 27. Unfortunately, the attempt was called off again because of Hurricane Ian’s fast momentum toward Florida. The next re-scheduled attempt will be during the 69-minute launch window for the SLS on November 14, 2022. If everything finally goes as intended, the uncrewed Orion spacecraft will orbit the moon and return 25 days later on December 9. In case of more technical issues, NASA has scheduled two more attempts on November 16 and 19.

However, questions have been raised regarding why there have been so many setbacks and if the ends will justify the means. From 2012 until 2025, The Artemis Program costs $93 billion. Each launch costs $4.1 billion extracted from NASA’s government funding. It is inevitable for the public to wonder whether this money is going to waste if there are such high numbers of miscalculations in the preparation process. Further, is it really necessary? Why do we need further exploration on the moon to progress to Mars?

To address these questions, we must first acknowledge that mistakes are bound to happen, especially in a complex field like rocket science. Though this mission has experienced unexpected problems, it is a gateway to further space exploration because it helps us obtain information about the requirements and difficulty that comes along with space travel. The program has plans for building an Artemis lunar base camp, which will become the foundation of how we establish a long-term stay on other celestial objects such as Mars. These seemingly small steps are nevertheless crucial in advancing the human race as a whole.

It has been a rough start, and we are waiting in anticipation for Artemis I to finally launch. While success is temporarily in doubt, the significance of this program and the potential accomplishments it will yield are certain. Once the program lifts off the ground, we are set on a trajectory toward making huge advancements in space exploration.