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Friday, December 02, 2022

NASA’s Moon Rocket Moved to Launch Pad for First Test Flight

Cape Canaveral, Fla. ( Associated Press) — NASA’s new moon rocket reached the launch pad on Wednesday ahead of its first flight in less than two weeks.

The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket lifted off from its massive hangar late Tuesday, drawing crowds of Kennedy Space Center workers, many of whom were not yet born when NASA sent astronauts to the Moon half a century ago was. It took about 10 hours for the rocket to travel four miles to the pad, pulling upward at sunrise.

NASA is targeting liftoff on August 29 for a lunar test flight. There would be no one inside the crew capsule atop the rocket, just three mannequins in the swarm with sensors to measure radiation and vibration.

The capsule will fly around the Moon in distant orbit for a few weeks, before heading back for a splashdown in the Pacific. The entire flight should last six weeks.

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The flight is the first moon in NASA’s Artemis program. The space agency is targeting a lunar-orbiting flight with astronauts in two years and a lunar landing by a human crew in early 2025. This is much later than NASA anticipated when it established the program more than a decade ago as a spacecraft. Fleet retired. Years of delay have added billions of dollars to the cost.

“Now for the first time since 1972, we’re going to launch a rocket, designed for deep space,” NASA rocket program manager John Honeycutt said recently.

NASA’s new SLS Moon rocket, short for Space Launch System, is 41 feet (12 meters) shorter than the Saturn V rocket used during Apollo half a century ago. But it’s more powerful, using the core stage and twin strap-on boosters that are used for the Space Shuttle.

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“When you look at the rocket, it almost looks retro. It looks like we’re looking at the Saturn V,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told reporters earlier this month. There’s a different, new, highly sophisticated, more sophisticated rocket and spacecraft.”

Twenty-four astronauts went to the Moon during Apollo, 12 of whom landed on it from 1969 to 1972. The space agency wants a more diverse team and more sustained effort under Artemis, named after the mythical twin sister of Apollo.

“I want to underline that this is a test flight,” Nelson said. “This is just the beginning.”

This was the rocket’s third trip to the pad. A countdown test in April was marred by a fuel leak and other equipment trouble, forcing NASA to return the rocket to the hangar for repairs. The dress rehearsals were repeated on the pad in June, with better results.

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