Artemis 1 – Back to the Moon and Beyond

Article by Viruna Nadun Hettige, 2nd Year Undergraduate


What is the Artemis Program?

The Artemis program is a series of ongoing Lunar Missions run by NASA which will enable human exploration on the moon and future missions to Mars. It has 5 missions, and the 1st mission, Artemis 1, was successfully completed in 2022. This is one of the NASA’s 1st large-scale collaborations with commercial companies such as SpaceX and Boeing.

Artemis 1 (2022): This uncrewed mission was an extensive test of the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Module.

Artemis 2 (2025): Will take humans to the farthest they’ve ever been in space.

Artemis 3 (2026):  Since Apollo 17 in 1972, this will be the first crewed Moon landing mission. NASA wants to send the first female and first person of color to set foot on the moon. Before leaving for Earth, they will conduct scientific research on the Moon for a week.

Artemis 4 (2027): place the “Gateway ” the central component of a new Lunar Space Station into orbit around the moon and successfully land two more astronauts there.

Artemis 5 (2029): Conduct a third crewed Lunar landing and add a significant module to Gateway to conduct further experiments.

Why the names Artemis and Orion?

Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis is a legendary Greek Goddess of the moon. The program’s name is meant to establish a connection with the Apollo Mission, which more than 50 years ago made the first human landings on the Moon.

Orion is the name of the crewed spacecraft. In the meantime, one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky is called Orion. Orion is Artemis’ hunting companion in classical mythology.

Artemis 1

Why was it delayed from the planned date?

The space agency had faced significant challenges in preparing its powerful SLS rocket for launch. Three wet dress rehearsals of the rocket were unsuccessful in April for various reasons, including a malfunctioning vent valve and a hydrogen leak. Despite a second leak that delayed part of the test, NASA deemed their fourth wet dress rehearsal in June successful. Then, due to weather and technical difficulties, NASA had to postpone the rocket’s launch from its initial August date to September, October, and finally November.

The SLS System

At 322 feet tall, this super heavy-lift rocket is taller than the Statue of Liberty. Its’ costs are expected to reach $800 million per launch. It is 15% more powerful than the original Saturn V launcher that carried humans to the moon. The SLS is one of the most potent rockets in the world. During a launch, SLS produces up to about 39 million newtons (8.8 million pounds) of thrust. The twin SLS solid rocket boosters fall into the Atlantic, while the core stage and four recycled Space Shuttle engines tumble into the Pacific. None of the hardware is recoverable.

Figure 1: The Artemis Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft at the launch pad on 21st of April, 2022.

Orion Spacecraft

Orion was created explicitly to transport astronauts farther into deep space than they have previously traveled. It will defend the crew against solar radiation, intense heat during rapid entrance into Earth’s atmosphere, and includes cutting-edge, dependable life support and communication systems. The missions of Orion will be divided into several segments as a part of NASA’s plan to construct an adaptable, reusable, and long-lasting infrastructure that can support more complicated missions over several decades.

Equipped with life support systems and shuttle interfaces, Orion is the command module to transport the astronauts through space. In addition to carrying the crew into space and providing emergency abort capabilities, Orion will also be used as the exploration vehicle to allow safe re-entry from deep space return velocities and crew sustenance during the mission. The Space Launch System carried and tested the Orion in deep space during Artemis 1.

Figure 2: Orion’s Crew, Command and Service Modules.

Lunar Orbit

Orion arrived at the moon in style, firing its service module engine, and passed the Moon at an altitude of 69 miles. This entry pushed the capsule away from the Moon and a later engine burn sent the Orion into its final orbit, a Distant Retrograde Orbit, or DRO.

“Retrograde” refers to an orbit that is in the opposite direction of the Moon’s rotation. A DRO uses little fuel to keep a spacecraft stable for extended periods. Orion coasted roughly 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) beyond the Moon. After the engine fires as it departs DRO, a second Lunar flyby directed the capsule back towards Earth.

Figure 3: Lunar Orbit of the Artemis 1

Splashdown

This unmanned trip, which extensively tested the Orion module and the Space Launch System (SLS), took place in November and December of 2022. After traveling 450,000 km to reach the Moon, Artemis 1 toured 130 km above the surface before traveling an additional 64,373 km into deep space. On December 11, the module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja California, at 9:40 a.m. PST Sunday after a mission lasting 25.5 days.

Orion was subjected to temperatures during re-entry that were roughly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or half as hot as the surface of the Sun. Orion decelerated from around 25,000 mph(32 Mach) to roughly 20 mph in about 20 minutes in preparation for its parachute-assisted splashdown.

About the Next Artemis Mission

Artemis 2’s crew was announced on 3 April 2023. They are,

  • Christina Koch, mission specialist
  • Jeremy Hansen, mission specialist
  • Reid Wiseman, commander
  • Victor Glover, pilot
Figure 4: Artemis 2 crew – (Left to Right) Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Reid Wiseman
References
  1. Ridgeway, B. (2023, September 29). SPLASHDOWN! NASA’s Orion returns to Earth after historic Moon mission – NASA. NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/centers-and-facilities/hq/splashdown-nasas-orion-returns-to-earth-after-historic-moon-mission/
  2. Artemis Programme: what you need to know about NASA’s Moon missions. (n.d.). https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/nasa-moon-mission-artemis-program-launch-date#artemis%20questions
  3. Orion Spacecraft – NASA. (n.d.). NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/reference/orion-spacecraft/#hds-sidebar-nav-1
  4. Society, P. (2022, November 14). Artemis I launch guide: What to expect. The Planetary Society. https://www.planetary.org/articles/artemis-i-launch-guide
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