NASA is, once again, looking to play among the stars. In other words, a new space launch from Cape Canaveral to the Moon is imminent. The Artemis I Mission will take off on August 29th on the first flight from the US to space in the past fifty years. NASA announced this date Wednesday, August 24th, the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 13 launch. This flight will be a bit different from previously planned trips to space. For starters, the flight will contain no humans. Secondly, if successful, this flight will lead to a future in space for all of us. We may yet be able to see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars!
Despite the mission name of Artemis, the craft scheduled for launch is called "Orion." In addition to some LEGO pieces, Girl Scout badges, and other bits and baubles, the Orion spacecraft will hold tree seeds as Apollo 14 did. A black and white stuffed animal nicknamed "Snoopy" and three mannequins will round out the list of crew members aboard.
But these aren't your average mannequins. Once the flight concludes, they won't be modeling fall/winter fashions in stores. These mannequins will simulate human bodies as close as possible with all of the same organs and soft tissue as an actual human. They will wear suits (just like the human astronauts wear) with radiation sensors that will measure and relay readings back to NASA. Beyond that, vibration and acceleration will be relayed so that any changes between flights can be implemented. Overall, their purpose is to ensure that human astronauts will be capable of making the trip with the least amount of damage possible. After all, humans haven't been that far out in a very long time. Making sure they can make it both ways is paramount to the future of the program.
And a great future is planned for the program. Though this flight would be unmanned, manned flights are already on the horizon for the Artemis II and III Missions. According to the advanced technology manufacturer Lockheed Martin, the computers are ready. Scott Modesitt, the mission manager for Artemis II, there has been plenty of testing done and plenty of testing remaining for their onboard flight systems. Once the kinks are worked out based on the data gathered from the Artemis I Mission, four astronauts will follow the same path to the Moon in 2024. Instead of landing, this flight will be a loop around the grey mass and a return to Earth. These astronauts could be going farther into space than any human had before. Artemis III will be a similarly ambitious undertaking. In the year following Artemis II, a portion of the crew will disembark and gather samples from the Moon for further study. Instead of the one or two days that previous missions had taken, this mission is meant to last about a week. And just like the missions that came before, the success of Artemis II and III can lead to similar explorations and humans pushing even deeper into space.
The Artemis I Mission has the potential to bring the dream of space travel to reality. Not just for rich guys who build fancy cars and sell products online but for everyone. An ambitious future is planned for NASA and the Artemis missions in the next ten years. Those with an interest in the stars, in the physics of space flight, and the challenge of making it a home for all of us in the future will undoubtedly find a place there. We here at Nova STEMversity are excited to see where the next spacecraft will take us!
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