But why is it so difficult to go to the moon if we went there already 60 years ago?

But why is it so difficult to go to the moon if we went there already 60 years ago?

The first two launch attempts for the Artemis mission failed. And after the latest blow, a massive loss of liquid hydrogen from the supply line direct to the rocket's central stage, waiting times could become longer and longer: to try again by the end of September, NASA must be able to repair the rocket. in record time, and collect an extension of the certification of security systems from the US Space Force, which should be rechecked every 25 days. If not, don't talk about it again before October. All that remains is to cross your fingers, therefore, because further delays and problems - not to mention an accident of course - could jeopardize the mission (criticized at home for some time due to the exorbitant costs), and with it our hopes of returning on the moon, at least in the near future. For many, a question seems inevitable: why so many problems today, if we have already been to the Moon, with primitive technologies and a mission set up in just nine years? The truth? There were also problems at the time, because sending a spaceship to the moon is much, much, more difficult than we can imagine. But in that case, failing (or even just being late) was not an option.

The Apollo Mission To understand the climate in which the first American mission to the Moon was organized, we must remember the historical period from which it was born. It was 1961, in the middle of the Cold War, with the space race having assumed a strategic symbolic importance, when Kennedy appeared in front of Congress to announce that they would reach the Moon by the end of the decade. The Soviets had won it in the first two stages of the human adventure in Space, the launch of the first satellite, with Sputnik 1 entering orbit in 1957, and the first astronaut to leave Earth's atmosphere, Yuri Gagarin, in April of that year. And the United States needed overwhelming success to be able to reassert its technological and military supremacy in the eyes of the world, its Soviet rivals and the American people.

The goal dictated by the American president was therefore unprecedented: to bring a man on the moon with a newly born space agency, and without even having the technologies ready to send astronauts to space. To succeed, NASA was entrusted with the equivalent of $ 100 billion today, and launched two twin space programs: the Gemini project, which was to develop the country's human spaceflight capability, and Apollo, dedicated to bring Americans to the moon. Both would prove successful, but not without problems, accidents, and a healthy dose of luck and recklessness.

A Dangerous Mission In such a race against time, one could not proceed with too much haste. The huge machine born around NASA thanks to the billionaire funds injection decided by Kennedy allowed to proceed in forced stages, and in just six years, in 1967 both the Apollo lunar module and the most powerful rocket ever were ready for testing. built, the Saturn V, which was supposed to bring it into the orbit of our satellite. American optimism, however, was destined to soon be reduced in the worst way. It happened during a manned Apollo exercise, scheduled for the departure of the Apollo 1 mission, which was supposed to test the new capsule in Earth orbit in February 1967. One month after launch, astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee entered the cockpit to check the launch procedures. The hatch of the capsule was closed, the interior pressurized with an atmosphere of pure oxygen. Then a voice yelled into the on-board radio “Fire. We have fire in the cockpit, ”and the interior of the cab was engulfed in flames. The fire was ignited by a spark that escaped from a faulty cable and, powered by the oxygen present in the cockpit, left no escape for the three astronauts, locked inside the cabin by a hatch that was not designed to be opened in fast times in case of an accident.

The tragic Apollo 1 accident did not stop the American space program, but we just missed it. The capsule was redesigned from scratch to provide more safety for the astronauts. And subsequent flight tests suffered major delays, to make sure nothing went wrong so spectacularly. Indeed, the first test of the Saturn V, the Apollo 4 mission, proved to be a success. But the launch, comparable to that of Artemis 1 because it was meant to test the unmanned rocket, finally took place in November 1967, almost a year after the originally planned date. And only after NASA engineers managed to solve over 1,400 construction problems that emerged during an inspection ordered by the agency following the Apollo 1 accident.

Net of the problems, in six years the However, NASA had conceived and built from scratch the Saturn V rocket, the most powerful spacecraft ever developed before the new Space Launch System, which will be tested in the Artemis 1 mission, and which took 10 years to see the light. A historic undertaking, carried out at a time when space exploration was still a pioneering activity, in which the lives of astronauts (and others) were constantly hanging by a thread. Just remember the amount of accidents that occurred during the historic Apollo 11 flight, in which Armstrong and Aldrin found themselves landing on the Moon with an error signal that flashed constantly (signaling a computer overload) threatening to reset the onboard computer; sailing on sight in a landing area other than that foreseen in the exercises, and with fuel supplies that were dangerously running out. An adventure that could have been lived in the 1960s, but which today would no longer be conceivable. Also for this reason, probably, the launch of the Artemis seems to go much longer than it should.

Different objectives Despite the common destination, the Artemis program also has a substantially different objective from that of the Apollo program: if in the 1960s they worked for a quick demonstration visit to the Moon, today the aim is to establish a lasting presence on the satellite, and to test and develop many of the technologies and infrastructures necessary to attempt the journey to Mars. Also for this reason the technological differences are considerable. Starting with the command module. The Apollo one was designed to carry three astronauts, and had a cabin of about 6 cubic meters. The Orion capsule has four seats, and a living space of 9 cubic meters. The carrier used in the past was the Saturn V, which for decades remained the most powerful space rocket ever made. In the Artemis mission, its successor will be tested, the Space Launch System, with a 15% higher thrust capacity, and designed to be used also in future missions directed to the red planet. Similar is the speech for the Orion capsule, designed to go well beyond what was done by that of the Apollo mission: already with Artemis 1 the capsule will travel around the Moon, going about 64 thousand kilometers further from Earth than it did in the past. And in the future, it will have the task of traveling over 250 million kilometers, until it reaches Mars. It is clear that the success of the first test of these devices is of crucial importance not only for the Artemis mission, but for the next decades of human exploration of Space. And with that at stake, NASA probably does well to take the time to ensure a successful launch.

Powered by Blogger.