It begins with a stumbling block, the path that should bring humanity back to the moon nearly 50 years after the last Apollo mission. Unexpected technical problems in a rocket engine forced NASA to postpone the launch of a rocketThe highly anticipated Artemis 1 mission, the unmanned test flight that was supposed to depart between 14:33 and 16:33 Italian time, to test the technologies needed to fly around the moon and return to Earth. “Safety always comes first,” NASA wrote on Twitter to explain the difficult choice of delay. Its technicians are already working to check if it is possible to retry the launch on September 2, in the second available window that will open for two hours starting from the Italian 18:48. “Once we solve the problem, we’ll fly,” said Senator Bill Nelson, the number one at NASA Senator Bill Nelson, in an interview with NASA TV.
“Spaceflight is very complex and doing it well is far more important than getting it done on schedule,” ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano wrote on Twitter, commenting on the cancellation of the Artemis 1 mission launch today. “I learned a lot of lessons for the engineers and we hope to have a new experience soon,” he adds.
Pamitano, who attended the launch live with colleagues Thomas Pesquet and Alexander Gerst, also from the European Space Agency, spoke of “an atmosphere of great excitement and satisfaction: there is a feeling that we are about to witness something extraordinary” that will change history.
“For all like me and even younger people who did not attend the Apollo experience, this is the beginning of a new exploratory experience that will be even more complex and compelling, because it is designed in an international way and for different purposes,” Parmitano explained.
“This return to the moon will not only be a revival of what happened in the 1960s and 1970s, but a really fresh start,” he added. “For my generation of astronauts, the success of this launch means the possibility for some of us to have an experience that a European has never had: to be part of a crew that will orbit the moon and in the future until a European sees the flag on the moon.”
This launch is the first phase of a program that includes, after this mission, a second (Artemis 2) in lunar orbit and a third (Artemis 3), in which astronauts will return after half a century to walk on the moon.
“This is a historic moment for Europe,” ESA Director General Josef Schbacher wrote on Twitter. He added: “In this decade – he added – the first woman and the next man will walk on deck. Luna and the European Space Agency are building the devices that will provide the impetus for their transport and support.” Indeed, ESA is involved in all phases of the Artemis program, from the European Service Module (ESM) construction of the Orion capsule, some elements of which were manufactured in Italy by Thales Alenia Space (Thales-Leonardo), to a futuristic space station. In Gateway lunar orbit, Even the green light is in the presence of three European astronauts destined to travel in lunar orbit and possibly walk on the moon.
Certainly among the astronauts destined to descend on the lunar soil, there will be a woman, as NASA has said several times, but the name has not yet been determined. Another great news for Artemis is that man’s return to the Moon will not be a loop: the foundations will be laid to build a stable outpost, a base that could in the future make the Moon a forward focus for future trips to Mars.
There is also a lot of Italian technology on the Artemis 1 mission, thanks to the collaboration between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and industry. In addition to participating in the Orion service module (built with a contribution from Leonardo and Thales Alenia Space), the Argomoon small satellite, built for ASI by Argotec in Turin, represents Italy on the mission. It will be the only active European satellite in lunar orbit, from which it will capture technologies that will fly in the Artemis 1 mission.
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