It’s time to get excited about space again
By Zachary B. Wolf, CNN
(CNN) — In order to take the next giant leap for humanity and put a person on Mars, NASA first wants to return to the Moon, 50 years after the last Apollo mission.
A spectacular small step is coming Monday with, weather and mechanical issues permitting, the Artemis I mission, as the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft lift off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Rockets blasting off to space might seem relatively routine in an age when corporations and countries are flooding the atmosphere and the wealthy can buy a ticket on a rocket to the International Space Station.
But the uncrewed Artemis I mission is a throwback to the inspirational space program of yore, when space captured national attention and its exploration was mission critical.
CNN will have live coverage starting this weekend and running through Monday’s launch. Here’s how to watch.
Watchmaking evenings are multiplying throughout the country. Find one in your area.
CNN’s Kristin Fisher, Ashley Strickland, Rachel Crane and Eleanor Stubbs have all contributed to this story and what’s below is taken from their extensive reporting as well as several interviews I’ve seen on CNN over the past few days.
Why is the United States going back to the moon?
“We’re going back to the moon with a view to going to Mars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day” program. “That’s the difference. Fifty years ago, we went to the moon for a day, a few hours, three days maximum. Now we go back to the moon to stay, live, learn, build.” Watch the full interview.
How is this mission different from the Apollo moon landing mission 50 years ago?
“When we sent people to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s, we were in what looked like a race for survival – the survival of the United States of America against the Soviet Union,” the statement said. astronaut Stan Love to CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Poppy. Harlow Friday. “We had an existential threat and we were responding to it peacefully, which I think is wonderful, much better than solving this problem with bombs.”
This existential threat faded with the Soviet Union, as did funding for the space program, which now represents a much smaller share of US spending. More recently, space has been an international and increasingly commercial enterprise.
How amazing is this mission?
The numbers are incredible, according to this interactive by Stubbs and CNN’s Marco Chacón.
The two explain why this is a test flight:
- Orion will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at 24,500 mph.
- It will have to withstand 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, half as hot as the surface of the sun.
“Our number one goal is that we want to know that the heat shield is going to work on the searing heat of reentry. It’s coming hot. It’s coming fast, 32 times the speed of sound, Mach 32,” Nelson said on “New Day .”
Should the private sector take over space?
Love argued that we are in the midst of a natural progression where industry takes over in lower Earth orbit and the US government looks further ahead.
“We’re sort of handing the lower Earth orbit back to industry and we’re going to go to the moon and one day we’re handing the moon back to industry,” he said.
There’s also a new space race going on
Instead of the Soviet Union, the United States is now in a space race with China, Nelson said.
“We must be very worried about China landing on the moon and saying, ‘It’s ours now and you stay out,'” Nelson said in July.
Fisher wrote of the “dueling efforts by the United States and China to build bases on the moon’s ice-rich south pole in the 2030s.” Read his story.
China is now cooperating with Russia and plans to build a new space station. Twenty nations have signed the Artemis mission with the United States.
“This is not a rough race to plant a flag,” Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told Fisher. “The 1967 Outer Space Treaty states that space is the province of all mankind. China has the right to explore and use space. I just don’t want that they are there without us.” (China, the Russian Federation and the United States are all signatories to the treaty.)
Who wins the current race to the moon?
Fisher: If the 42-day uncrewed mission around the moon and back is successful, it will keep NASA on track to meet its goal of returning American astronauts to the moon by 2025. China is aiming for 2030 to landing its astronauts, called Taikonauts, on the Moon.
The Artemis program aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon and eventually deliver astronauts to Mars.
Will there be people on mission on Monday?
No. But the theft is unprecedented, writes Strickland. “Orion will fly 40,000 miles (64,373 kilometers) beyond the moon, breaking the record set by Apollo 13, to go further than any spacecraft designed to carry humans.”
Plus, it’s going places people haven’t gone before and NASA wants to know how things react to deep space before they send people.
Of The CNN report:
The Orion spacecraft will carry items like yeast, algae, mushrooms and seeds rather than a traditional crew. The results of these experiments are essential to help pave the way for the safe return of humans to the Moon and an eventual crewed landing on Mars through future Artemis missions.
There will also be a mannequin on board, Commander Moonikin Campos.
It’s just a first step
The current goal is to land people on the moon within two years. Assuming everything goes as planned on Monday.
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