NASA says it may attempt Artemis mission to Moon later this month

Two previous attempts were scrapped due to technical glitches; official says next attempt at unmanned launch featuring Israeli tech may take place on September 23 or 27

Photographers place remote cameras near the Artemis 1 rocket as she stands on Launch Pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, August 26, 2022. (AP/Brynn Anderson)
Photographers place remote cameras near the Artemis 1 rocket as she stands on Launch Pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, August 26, 2022. (AP/Brynn Anderson)

NASA is looking at September 23 and September 27 as possible dates for its next attempt at launching its Artemis 1 mission to the Moon, senior official Jim Free told reporters on Thursday.

Two previous attempts were scrapped after the giant Space Launch System rocket experienced technical glitches including a fuel leak.

“The 23rd is a 6:47 a.m. window open for 80 minutes, and the 27th is an 11:37 a.m. window with a 70-minute duration,” said Free, associate administrator for the agency’s exploration systems development directorate.

The dates were chosen to avoid a conflict with the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), in which a probe is set to strike an asteroid on September 26.

The launch dates depend, however, on NASA receiving a special waiver to avoid having to retest batteries on an emergency flight system that is used to destroy the rocket if it strays from its designated range to a populated area.

If it does not receive the waiver, the rocket will have to be wheeled back to its assembly building, pushing the timeline back several weeks.

Mike Bolger, exploration ground systems manager, added that teams were working to replace seals to fix the hydrogen leak issue — work that could be completed by the end of Thursday, which would pave the way for a tanking test on September 17.

The Artemis 1 space mission hopes to test the SLS as well as the unmanned Orion capsule that sits atop, in preparation for future Moon-bound journeys with humans aboard.

Israeli technology is slated to be a key part of the upcoming mission.

Israeli company StemRad, a developer of radiation protection suits for space explorers, emergency responders, defense forces, nuclear industry workers and medical personnel, is preparing for a major demonstration of its unique product.

As part of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, StemRad will assess the protective qualities of the AstroRad, an anti-radiation suit co-developed with Lockheed Martin to protect vital organs from harmful gamma radiation, on human analogs (or mannequins) aboard the Orion.

The humanoid stand-ins, called “anthropometric radiation phantoms,” are provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), a partner to a study of the AstroRad’s performance in space. Dubbed the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE), the study will provide a comparative analysis of two female phantoms — one named Zohar, in a nod to Israel, which will wear the AstroRad, and its unprotected counterpart, Helga, named by the German team.

With NASA’s new timetable, the launch may coincide with the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, celebrated between September 25-27.

The assembled female-formed mannequins Zohar (foreground), with the AstroRad anti-radiation suit, and Helga (background), without. (NASA/StemRad)

NASA is seeking to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon, and use the lessons it learns to plan a crewed trip to Mars in the 2030s. The program hopes to build a permanent outpost on the moon, including an Artemis Base Camp on the surface and a dedicated station, Gateway, in lunar orbit to allow “robots and astronauts to explore more and conduct more science than ever before.”

First signed in October 2020 by its founding members, the Artemis Accords are built on 10 principles meant to govern civil exploration of outer space. These principles include peaceful exploration, transparency, the release of scientific data, emergency assistance to personnel of all countries, and the use of space resources in compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forms the basis of international space law.

NASA has said the moonwalkers will include the first woman and the first person of color to make the trip.

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