Let’s Go to the Moon – NASA Artemis
Let’s build the most powerful rocket ever built and send it to the moon – sounds like your 5th-grade dream right? Well, NASA is doing just that.
From Space City to Florida
Snail Speed to Rocket Speed
So you put together your epic rocket – how do you move it to the launch pad? The Crawler.
A pair of behemoth machines called crawler-transporters have carried the load of taking rockets and spacecraft to the launch pad for more than 50 years at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Each the size of a baseball infield and powered by locomotive and large electrical power generator engines, the crawler-transporters stand ready to keep up the work for the next generation of launch vehicles to lift astronauts into space.
Crawler Fun Facts:
- Top speed of 1mph.
- Approximately 6.6 million pounds (or the weight of about 15 Statues of Liberty or 1,000 pickup trucks).
- Able to transport 18 million pounds (or the weight of more than 20 fully loaded 777 airplanes).
Why Back to the Moon?
The primary goal of Artemis I is to pave the way for astronauts to return to the surface of the moon. This first test flight will send an uncrewed Orion capsule around the moon and test some technology along the way before coming in for a blistering hot reentry through Earth’s atmosphere and a splashdown landing.
After launching from Earth, Artemis I will go on a 37-day mission. During the journey, the Orion spacecraft will travel 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) beyond the moon — 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers) farther than the record set during Apollo 13. This path mimics the journey that the Artemis II crew will take in 2024.
But the full vision for Artemis involves next putting a lunar gateway in orbit around the moon. This will be a sort of waypoint and miniature space station for future lunar missions. From there the plan is to set up a permanent outpost on the lunar surface. Everything that NASA learns from Artemis is meant to then inform plans for the first missions to Mars in the 2030s. Yes, you hear that right – Mars!
The highlight of day 2 was getting up close with the rocket. While the closest you can get is miles away, we took a bus ride right next to the rocket and it is massive! The majestic machine has many components to it – the BBC infographic below does a good job of breaking them all down.
The SLS core stage is NASA’s most powerful and tallest rocket ever, standing 212 feet (65 meters) tall and 27.6 feet (8.4 m) wide. Eighty aluminum panels comprise the core stage’s 10 barrel sections, forming the forward skirt, the liquid oxygen tank section, the intertank section, the liquid hydrogen barrel, and the engine section. Nearly all the rocket’s welds lack bolts, instead having been sealed using a process called “friction stir welding.” The SLS’s distinctive orange color comes from the spray foam insulation used.