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U.S. begins the countdown to travel to the Moon on August 29th

The Artemis programme is the path laid out by NASA to set foot on the lunar surface again 53 years later
For NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the US return programme to the Moon means moving from the Apollo generation to the new Artemis generation, the great stepping stone to Mars.

PHOTO/NASA-Bill Ingalls  -   For NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the US return programme to the Moon means moving from the Apollo generation to the new Artemis generation, the great stepping stone to Mars.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States, NASA, has just confirmed that the launch of the first mission that begins the path of the American return to the Moon will take off on 29 August from the Kennedy Space Center, on the coast of the US state of Florida.

This was announced by the Agency's own Administrator, Bill Nelson, at a briefing on 3 August. Called Artemis I, the mission is to travel a total of 2.1 million kilometres, reach lunar orbit and fly at a minimum altitude of 97 kilometres above the surface of the moon. But without carrying astronauts. It will be a real and complete unmanned test.

As this is the first comprehensive test of NASA's new deep space exploration systems, the Agency will conduct a thorough examination of all the equipment it has developed for the occasion, including the ground-based systems it has erected at Kennedy Space Center.

PHOTO/NASA-Bill Ingalls - El lanzador SLS proporcionará la energía para que la astronave Orión pueda alcanzar una velocidad superior a los 36.370 km/h, escapar de la atracción de la gravedad de la Tierra y entrar en la órbita de la Luna
PHOTO/NASA-Bill Ingalls - The SLS launcher will provide the power for the Orion spacecraft to reach speeds in excess of 36,370 km/h, escape the pull of Earth's gravity and enter the Moon's orbit.

First, before risking the lives of any of its astronauts, it will check that the new launcher, called the Space Launch System (SLS), is a safe and reliable means of space transportation. Standing 100 metres tall and described by NASA as "the world's most powerful rocket", the SLS is the 2020s equivalent of the Saturn V rocket of the 1960s Apollo programme, which carried the first humans to the moon.

Artemis I will also evaluate the full capabilities of the new Orion capsule, which on future missions will carry astronauts to our natural satellite, bring them back after a 43-day round trip - barring emergencies - and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego, California. On the Artemis I mission, Orion will detach from the SLS rocket 2 hours and 5 minutes after liftoff and is scheduled to return to Earth on 10 October, provided the launch takes place on 29 August. 

PHOTO/NASA-KSC - La misión inaugural que comienza el camino del retorno norteamericano a nuestro satélite natural tiene previsto su despegue el 29 de agosto desde el Centro Espacial Kennedy, en la costa de Florida.
PHOTO/NASA-KSC - The inaugural mission that begins the path of America's return to our natural satellite is scheduled for liftoff on 29 August from Kennedy Space Center on the Florida coast.
Three dummies instead of human astronauts

Orion should fly further than any other spacecraft has ever flown before. It will travel 450,000 kilometres from Earth and another 64,000 kilometres beyond the dark side of the moon, beating the record set by Apollo 13 in April 1970 by 48,000 kilometres. It means it will remain in space without docking to an orbital complex longer than any other spacecraft.

The NASA administrator sums up the project by saying that "we were in the Apollo generation and now we are in the new Artemis generation". And he made it clear that returning to the Moon is the great stepping stone to the Red Planet: "We're going to Mars and we're going to go back to the Moon, to work, live, survive and learn how to use lunar resources so we can build things in the future".

Although there are no astronauts on the first return mission to the moon in the 21st century, there are three non-human passengers, who will wear the so-called Orion crew survival system. Their role is to test the habitability conditions of the Orion capsule and, through its sensors, to collect data useful for future astronaut missions.

PHOTO/NASA - La cápsula espacial Orión viajará 450.000 kilómetros desde la Tierra y otros 64.000 más allá del lado oscuro de la Luna y permanecerá en el espacio sin acoplarse a ningún complejo orbital más tiempo que cualquier otra nave espacial
PHOTO/NASA - The Orion space capsule will travel 450,000 kilometres from Earth and another 64,000 kilometres beyond the dark side of the Moon and will remain in space without docking to an orbital complex longer than any other spacecraft.

In the mission leader's seat will be the mannequin leader, named Commander Moonikin Campos in a public competition organised by NASA. It has sensors in the headrest and behind the seat to record accelerations and vibrations, five accelerometers and two radiation sensors.

Commander Campos will be accompanied by Helga and Zohar, two mannequin torsos, made from materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues and organs of an adult woman. An experiment of NASA, the German Aerospace Center and the Israel Space Agency, they are equipped with more than 5,600 passive sensors and 34 active detectors to measure their exposure to solar radiation. 

PHOTO/NASA-Bill Ingalls - Artemis I debe evaluar en vuelo el nuevo traje espacial, de color naranja. El que está a su lado es también nuevo, pero para actividades extra vehiculares, que ahora no se va a probar
PHOTO/NASA-Bill Ingalls - Artemis I is to evaluate the new orange spacesuit in flight. The one next to it is also new, but for extra-vehicular activities, which will not be tested now. 
Withstanding temperatures of 2,800 degrees Celsius

Zohar will wear a radiation protection waistcoat (AstroRad), which will not be worn by Helga. The study aims to obtain valuable data on the radiation levels experienced by astronauts on lunar missions and the benefits of wearing protective waistcoats to work in critical activities despite a solar storm. The three dummies are accompanied by a number of different tests. Among the biological tests is one to analyse the impact of radiation on the nutritional value of seeds.

What are the main objectives of Artemis I? Firstly, to prove the capabilities of the SLS launcher. But it is just as important to demonstrate that the Orion capsule is capable of returning to Earth, entering the atmosphere and braking from 40,000 km/h to 480 km/h.

PHOTO/NASA - Esquema que representa el vuelo de ida y regreso de la misión no tripulada a la Luna Artemis I, que, salvo emergencias, se prolongará durante 43 días hasta amerizar en aguas del Pacifico, frente a las costas de San Diego, California
PHOTO/NASA - Schematic depicting the outbound and return flight of the unmanned Artemis I mission to the Moon, which, barring emergencies, will take 43 days to splash down in Pacific waters off the coast of San Diego, California. 

But above all, it must be validated that Orion's heat shield can withstand temperatures in the order of 2,800 degrees Celsius, which is essential to recover the spacecraft and save the lives of the astronauts who will travel inside it on subsequent missions. This is a temperature that no aerodynamic or aerothermal test facility has been able to recreate on Earth.

Artemis I will be used to deploy 13 tiny science and technology satellites, each the size of a large shoebox and weighing about 11 kilos. Seven belong to US universities, institutes and large companies, two to universities in Japan and one to Italy's space agency.

PHOTO/NASA - Los torsos de Helga y Zohar, dos maniquíes construidos con materiales que imitan huesos humanos, tejidos blandos y órganos de una mujer adulta, que están equipados con miles de sensores pasivos y detectores activos
PHOTO/NASA - The torsos of Helga and Zohar, two mannequins constructed from materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues and organs of an adult woman, which are equipped with thousands of passive sensors and active detectors.  

Six missions are confirmed in the Artemis programme and the total cost is around $10 billion. Artemis I will be followed by Artemis II, which is currently scheduled to take off in May 2024. It will be the first manned mission, although the four astronauts on board will not land on the moon. It will be followed in 2025 by Artemis III, which will also have four astronauts, two of whom will reach the surface of the Moon, one of them the first woman to set foot on our natural satellite.