May 22, 2022

2022, a new start for the conquest of the Moon

Who still really remembers John Young, Charles Duke, Harrison Schmitt and Gene Cernan? These Americans are the last four men to have walked on the Moon, during the Apollo-16 and 17 missions. It was in 1972. Apollo-18, 19 and 20 never took place, canceled for budgetary reasons and undoubtedly also because the conquest of the Moon no longer fascinated either the crowds or the media. A bit like saying “that’s done” by ticking a box on the list of tasks to be accomplished and moving on to something else… Much remained to be done, however, on and with the Moon, but it took fifty years to that the desire to go back there materializes. First under the impetus of the Chinese, with the successes of their Chang’e program, and now with the great return of the Americans. The year 2022 promises to be that of a new start for the conquest of the Moon, with a dozen missions in the starting blocks.

The one that will attract all eyes will undoubtedly be Artemis-1, which could take off in the spring. Twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, the goddess Artemis lends her name to NASA’s return to the Moon program, which aims to land humans – and in particular the first woman – on the surface of our satellite. nature in 2025. As explained by Jean Blouvac, head of the Exploration and manned flights program at the National Center for Space Studies, « Artemis-1 will mark the first flight of the new American heavy launcher Space Launch System [SLS], with the Orion spacecraft, which are the modern successors to the Saturn-5 rocket of the 1960s-1970s and the Apollo spacecraft”. Expected for more than a decade, the SLS will be the most powerful launcher ever built. In its first version, it will be able to send around thirty tons into lunar orbit.

Round trip to lunar orbit

Who says first flight (or “qualification flight”, in space jargon) also says unmanned flight. The objective is to test materials and systems. A nearly 100-meter-tall monster flanked by two solid-state boosters, the SLS will tear itself out of the ground at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and put Orion (part of which, the service module, is provided by the European Space Agency ) in orbit around the Earth. Then the intermediate stage will give the capsule enough thrust to launch itself towards the Moon. Orion will approach 100 kilometers from the surface of the star and will take advantage of its gravitational force to enter a distant orbit (70,000 kilometers away from our satellite).

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