Test flight for NASA "Artemis" moon mission launched
After months of postponements, the crisis-ridden NASA lunar mission "Artemis 1" departed on Wednesday for a first test launch. The unmanned capsule "Orion" took off with the "Space Launch System" rocket from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in the U.S. state of Florida, as could be seen on live images from the U.S. space agency NASA. For about three weeks, "Orion" is to travel in an orbit around the moon before the capsule is expected back on Earth on December 11.
So far, the mission has not been under a good star: After delays and cost explosions in development and construction, the first test launch has already had to be postponed numerous times, among other things because of two successive storms and various technical problems.
The "Artemis" program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, is supposed to land U.S. astronauts on the moon again in the coming years, including for the first time a woman and a non-white person. The mission will initially take four astronauts into lunar orbit on "Orion," where two of them will transfer to a lander for the final approach to the moon. The launch is currently planned for 2025 at the earliest. A rover is also to go along.
No humans on board for "Artemis 1" test mission
In addition, outposts are to be built on the moon and in its orbit, also as a base for a later Mars mission. The European space agency Esa and the space agencies of several other countries are also involved in the project, which currently costs around $30 billion.
NASA put the last humans on the moon in 1972 with the Apollo 17 mission. The USA was the only country to put twelve astronauts on the moon with the "Apollo" missions between 1969 and 1972.
The "Artemis 1" test mission does not yet have any humans on board, but it does have two dolls - or "astronaut phantoms," as the German Aerospace Center (DLR) calls them: Zohar and Helga. This is a project with German and Israeli participation. The test is whether a protective vest developed in Israel can effectively protect a female body in particular from dangerous space radiation. "Both phantoms survived the pre-launch waiting period well thanks to a sophisticated power-saving strategy," DLR said. "Helga and Zohar are fit for the flight."