NASA Shows Off its New Moon Rocket in Another Giant Leap for Mankind

December 11, 2019

by Andreea Sterea

During Artemis Day a few days ago, at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, NASA unveiled “the most powerful rocket ever built.” The rocket is part of the project aiming to send American astronauts back to the Moon in 2024.

A Moon Rocket to Rule Them All

During Artemis Day in New Orleans, scientists, the media, and social media followers had the surprise of their lives. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine unveiled the most powerful rocket ever build.

As NASA followers and space science buffs already know, NASA’s Space Launch System, the SLS, aims to carry American astronauts – a woman included – back to the Moon in 2024. This is in short the Artemis project, a proud follower of the Apollo missions.

After testing the Launch Abort System, NASA just finished testing the SLS. Needless to say, the Moon rocket passed the test with flying colors. Now,  the agency is ready to proceed with its plans.

The Artemis 1 rocket and the Orion crew capsules will take the first woman and the next men on the Moon in 2024. But the ambition of the Artemis project is not to just land people on our rocky neighbor, but to find ways for them to stay there.

Testing the Moon Rocket

Engineers at NASA tested the Moon rocket’s fuel tank. They used a test rig similar in structure to the real SLS liquid hydrogen tank. Then, they subjected the tank to tension, compression, bending forces, temperature, and so on. They measured the structural integrity with thousands of sensors, cameras, and microphones tuned to detect the lowest levels of temperature, pressure, and stress, as well as the presence of any buckles.  

The tank failed exactly when and how NASA engineers calculated, so everything is on the right track. With the tank passing this test, the stage of assembly and testing of the SLS is now complete and ready for the next step.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine explained the magnitude of the entire project

Think of it as a reusable, in other words, a permanent command module that will be in orbit around the moon for 15 years. With solar electric propulsion so it can go to the North Pole, the South Pole, in other words the L1, the L2 point and give us access to the entirety of the moon so that we don’t miss these kinds of discoveries ever again.”

What Is the Purpose of the New Moon Rocket?

Using the SLS and the Orion crew capsules, NASA hopes to allow astronauts to gain more access to parts of the Moon that they were not able to reach in the last decades and during the six missions. The SLS program is a bit behind schedule, but NASA is still aiming to test the full SLS in 2021, so it can be up and running by 2024 for the Artemis project.

In all fairness, NASA has only one hefty priced SLS system. They are still in negotiations with Boeing for a second one.

The purpose of the Moon rocket is to explore the Moon thoroughly and learn if we could reach a sustainable exploration stage by 2028. Because once they manage to sustainably explore the Moon’s surface, then the agency will embark in humankind’s biggest and boldest journeys in history: sending astronauts to Mars.

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