September 14, 2022
Artemis Mission Manager, NASA
Chief Communications Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
NASA’s Artemis program aims to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. With the launch of the unmanned Artemis I planned for autumn 2022, NASA’s team of scientists and astronauts are partnering with the commercial sector, government agencies, and other international organizations to ensure a successful test mission.
During the U.S. Chamber’s Global Aerospace Summit, Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis Mission Manager, discussed the planned launch of Artemis I. Sarafin explained this program’s goals for lunar exploration and experimentation, as well as what we can expect for the future of Artemis.
Artemis I Is Laying the Groundwork for Artemis II
The goal of Artemis I is to test the Space Launch System (SLS), a vehicle that will propel the Artemis II human crew to orbit around the moon and safely return. Sarafin explained Artemis program’s objectives to further space exploration will depend on the output of Artemis I.
“When we come back from the moon on a direct reentry, we're gonna come back at 24,500 miles an hour, or Mach 32,” he explained. “We're going to have Mach 32 astronauts on future missions [so] when they come back … we need the rocket to do its job.”
At its core, Artemis’ ultimate mission will establish landing sites near the lunar south pole for scientific experiments and act as a testing ground to inform future missions to Mars.
“We've spent months and months and months to get ready for this mission… we'll see what it brings,” said Sarafin.
The Artemis I Launch Has Four Mission Priorities
Sarafin explained the four mission priorities for the Artemis I launch, tentatively set for September 27, 2022. First, the mission will demonstrate the effectiveness of the Orion heat shield under lunar re-entry conditions.
“[We will] hit the Earth's atmosphere at Mach 32 through the use of an ablative heat shield, [however], there's no facility here on earth that's capable of replicating those high-speed reentry conditions,” Sarafin explained. “This is why we need to test this heat shield.”
“Priority number two is to operate the systems in the flight environment,” he continued. Multiple tests will be carried out during the flight, including “transiting out beyond the Earth's magnetic field … and operating the spacecraft in that deep space flight environment for an extended period of time,” Sarafin said.
The third priority is to retrieve the spacecraft using parachutes and a helicopter crew to obtain critical data. Finally, the fourth priority is something Sarafin calls a “bonus objective.”
“[The final priority] is to share the mission with each and every one of you,” he said. “We’re going to provide outreach …. [and] share remarkable images.”
The Artemis Team Is Partnering with Contractors Worldwide
Sarafin highlighted the dedication of the contractors, engineers, and suppliers working on their crafts to provide essential services, equipment, and data to assist with the mission.
“When you look at how the space program reaches people, it always strikes me,” he said. “ Some of the [suppliers] specialize in one thing [such as] machining, titanium, parachute systems, or detonation cords. And when you see how highly specialized they are, it is a combination of engineering and art.”
“It's craftsmanship … and they take great pride in being part of the American space program and their contribution to it,” Sarafin continued. “And they share that heritage — they share that technology with other users, and that creates its own ecosystem.”
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