NASA sets 2024 for astronauts’ journey to lunar orbit on Artemis II

Artemis I was a success, according to NASA . This causes now to think about the second step: sending astronauts to the orbit of the Moon


NASA has tightened the launch date for its Artemis II mission with astronauts into lunar orbit for November 2024.

At a news conference Tuesday, agency representatives said everything they learned during the first uncrewed iteration of the Artemis mission is putting NASA on track to send astronauts to the moon for the first time in more than half a century. century in about 18 months.

Next destination: the Moon

This week, after carefully reviewing data from the Artemis I mission since splashdown , space agency officials reiterated that while there were some minor problems with the flight, overall it bolstered confidence.

As a result, NASA ‘s head of human deep space exploration Jim Free said the agency is targeting “late November” 2024 for the Artemis II mission .

During this flight, four astronauts, probably including a Canadian, will spend a little over a week in deep space. After verifying Orion’s performance in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft will fly on what is known as a “free return path” around the Moon , bringing them as close as 7,500 km to its surface before returning.

NASA hopes to name the crew for the Artemis II mission later this spring. They will be the first humans to fly beyond low Earth orbit in more than 50 years, since the end of the Apollo program in December 1972.

If NASA is successful with the Artemis II mission , it will set the stage for a crewed lunar mission landing during the second half of the 2020s.

The debate: the heat shield

Perhaps the most notable topic discussed during the press conference was the performance of Orion’s heat shield, which protects the spacecraft as it returns through Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. This represented one of the key tests during Artemis I , as vehicles returning from the Moon do so at a speed of approximately 40,000 km/h, which is approximately 30% faster than a vehicle normally returning from the Moon. low earth orbit.

“During the inspections there were more variations in the heat shield than we expected,” said Howard Hu, NASA’s Orion program manager . “Some of the char was shed differently than our computer models and our ground tests predicted. More char was released during re-entry than we expected.”

In this case, there was still plenty of headroom in Orion’s ablative material, meaning that the unexpected behavior observed in the heat shield posed no risk to the spacecraft. But NASA wants to refine its modeling of this behavior to get a good idea of ​​what to expect during future missions.