Miami, Aug 28 – The powerful SLS rocket and the Orion capsule at its cusp are only waiting for the countdown to end before taking off on Monday from Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA), and embarking on a historic unmanned voyage to the Moon, the terrestrial satellite that has not received a visit of this type since the end of the Apollo program.

If all goes as planned, at 8:33 a.m. local time (12:33 GMT), the rocket will be launched from pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and the Artemis I mission will begin a six-week journey, in which will reach more than 450,000 kilometers from Earth before embarking on a return that will culminate in the Pacific Ocean.

The presence of the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, as well as celebrities such as actors Jack Black and Chris Evans, is expected for the launch of this mission that marks the starting signal for the Artemis program, with which NASA opens a new chapter in space exploration marked by the establishment of a lunar base and the sending of a crew to Mars.

Artemis takes over from the Apollo program, whose last mission, Apollo 17, occurred in 1972 and represents the last time that man has landed on the lunar surface.

An absence that NASA longs to end when the Artemis III mission touches down on the Earth’s satellite in 2025, and also does so with the first woman and the first man of color to travel to the Moon.

Previously, this program, which takes the name of the twin sister of the God Apollo, will send its first manned mission, Artemis II, in 2024, which will make the same journey as its predecessor covers from Monday.


“It is going to revolutionize space exploration,” the Spaniard and NASA scientist Carlos García Galán, head of the European Service Module Integration Office of the Orion spacecraft, told Efe, after noting that one of the goals of the Artemis program is “develop the technology and knowledge to operate in deep space”.

“People are going to see the first black woman and man land on the moon, things we’ve never done, and that will leave decades of inspiration behind,” he noted.

During the 42-day mission, NASA seeks to test the 98-meter-high SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, which is powered by four RS-25 engines and two attached propellers, characteristics that They offer 15% more power than the Saturn rocket used in the Apollo missions, as García Galán said.

In the same way, the capabilities of the Orion ship will be measured, in which up to four crew members can fit, that is, one more than the Apollo, and with water and oxygen reserves that would allow it about 20 days of independent travel.

Two hours after tomorrow’s launch, and after separating from the SLS rocket, the Orion will continue on its own a journey that in total will cover some 2.1 million kilometers.

The spacecraft will fly close to the Moon, about 62 miles (almost 100 km) from its surface, and then enter a distant lunar orbit in which it will be more than 61,000 kilometers from the Earth’s satellite, that is, as far as no other crew capsules have arrived.

Upon his return, on October 10, Orion awaits another tough test, such as successfully descending off the coast of San Diego, in California (USA), with the support of eleven parachutes and in which he must slow down vertiginous the 40,000 km/h speed with which it will reach the Earth’s atmosphere, a moment in which it will withstand up to 2,760 degrees Celsius of temperature.

According to specialized media, NASA will wait for the completion of this mission, which has involved an investment of 4,000 million dollars, to publicize the astronauts that make up the crew of the Artemis II mission.

The first three missions of this program will offer new information about the Moon, as well as the effects on the physiology of humans produced by extended periods in space, taking into account long-range missions to the so-called “red planet”.

“The ultimate goal is Mars,” said García Galán.

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