With liftoff set for Monday morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s new moon rocket mission Artemis 1 is set to make its debut next week in a high-stakes test flight before astronauts get to be a part of it.
The 98-meter spacecraft named Orion will attempt to send an empty crew capsule into a far-flung lunar orbit for a six-week test flight that will cost the agency more than $4 billion.
“We’re going to stress it and test it. We’re going make it do things that we would never do with a crew on it in order to try to make it as safe as possible,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The retired founder of George Washington University’s space policy institute said a lot is riding on this trial run. Spiraling costs and long gaps between missions will make for a tough comeback if things go south, he noted.
For this test flight, a full-size dummy in an orange flight suit will occupy the commander’s seat, rigged with vibration and acceleration sensors. Two other mannequins made of material simulating human tissue — heads and female torsos, but no limbs — will measure cosmic radiation, one of the biggest risks of spaceflight.
One torso is even testing a protective vest from Israel.
After this first attempt, if all’s well, a second test flight will send four astronauts around the moon and back, perhaps as early as 2024. According to the plan, a year later, in 2025 NASA aims to send another four astronauts up, with two of them touching down at the lunar south pole.