The first step of the journey is often the most difficult. It is therefore worth pausing to celebrate the moment that NASA has taken the essential first step on the road to establishing a permanent presence in deep space.
Between the retreating blue sky and the white clouds, the Orion spacecraft fell into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday a few hundred kilometers between the Baja Peninsula. By the end of the Artemis 1 mission, the 25.5-day space mission that NASA has demonstrated is almost ready to begin flying humans into deep space again.
This has not been done for half a century. Sometimes it seemed like it would never happen again. But now most definitely to be done.
NASA’s progress toward the Moon, and one day the power of Mars, has been lethargic at times. The political process that has brought NASA to this point in recent decades has been a mess and a reaction to parochial projects. But on Sunday, there is no denying that this process has led NASA, the United States, and dozens of other countries to participate in the Artemisia Program, to the point where the research of its development is very deep for man, it is true.
It’s been a long time coming.
it begins falsely
The last Apollo mission ended this month, in 1972. For the time being, US presidents and the space agency were content to focus on human exploration in low-Earth orbit, with the development of the US space shuttle and plans to build a large space station.
Finally, however, some people began to worry. On the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing in 1989, President George Bush announced the Space Initiative, a long-term commitment to human exploration of deep space. The plan was to complete the space station and then, at the turn of the century, humans would start building a base there on the Moon.
What happened next was certainly not enough. Some people at NASA, including administrator Dick Vere, were not at all with Bush’s idea. They are worried that the plans will disrupt the lunar space station. Infamously, NASA conducted a 90-day study and leaked that the Bush plan would cost half a trillion dollars or more. Since Congress did not have such a budget plan, the moon plan died.
They lay dormant for nearly a decade and a half before President George W. Bush resurrected them. Like his father, Bush made a bold plan to send humans back to the Moon, where they would learn to work in deep space and then go to Mars. This is a constellation program.
This vision was well received in the aerospace community, but then three bad things happened. NASA’s new administrator, Mike Griffin, has picked up the largest and most expensive architecture – the Ares I and Ares V rockets – to get humans to the Moon. International partners are largely ignored. And then neither the President nor Congress fought to fully fund the program to survive.
The constellation was years late and far over budget when President Obama canceled it in 2010. At that point, Congress stepped in and saved the Orion spacecraft, which had been launched in 2005, and a new rocket project, the Space Launch System. The development of these programs over much of the last ten years has consumed in excess of $30 billion, with no clear allocation. That changed in late 2017, when Vice President Mike Pence announced that NASA would land humans on the Moon.
Then on to the Artemis Program formula in 2018 and 2019. It’s a long way off, but it needs more than that. Furthermore, it has built on past failures. While the Constellation program had only a government-led architecture, Artemis increasingly leaned into the commercial space. Artemis also tried to build international cooperation from the beginning, through a series of bilateral agreements known as the Artemis Accords. And as of this year, the program is fully funded.
“Fifty years ago we came to the country for control,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Sunday after Orion’s landing. “Today we go not only with international partners, but also with trade partners. It is the beginning of a new beginning.”
A rare Grace of day and night
There are myriad technical challenges ahead for the Artemis Program, including the development and testing of SpaceX’s complex lunar lander Starship, and the Axiom’s work on spacecraft capable of operating in the lunar environment. Both of these contracts, awarded in 2021 and 2022, will probably require time and patience to achieve fruition.
This is going to happen quickly. Artemis II is unlikely to fly before 2025, and the actual lunar landing mission will not come until decades later, perhaps in 2027 or 2028.
But the long sentence is instructive. Two other post-Apollo deep space programs failed because they lacked political support, funding, or both. Diana is different. It has both public support and funding. Remarkably, nearly every aspect of the space policy establishment — the White House, Congress, international partners, traditional aerospace, commercial space, and the space advocacy community — fell into Artemisia’s broad goals overnight.
That kind of support hasn’t been a program like this since the 1960s, and Apollo. And that fervor was really only a glass in the vat of national tragedy that followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Diana had nothing to do with this matter. Rather, elements of this program have had to survive four different and very contrasting administrations, from Bush to Obama to Trump to Biden.
“You want a nation troubled by the passion of the parties,” Nelson said. “That’s not the case here. NASA is non-partisan. Rs and Ds alike agree to help us.”
Therefore, politics is surprisingly divided. Now it comes down to technical implementation. It’s very hard, but at least it’s based on logic, unlike space planning. Artemis has been shown to be a technical success. Do you think SpaceX can’t make a rocket to land on the moon? Or the axiom, working on NASA’s plan, can’t manufacture spaceships to keep the lunar dust at bay?
Of course they can, and they want to.
NASA has also taken steps to address one of the last major problems with Artemis, the lack of coordination. Johnson Space Center in Houston is responsible for Orion and trains astronauts. The Marshall Space Flight Center in North Alabama builds the SLS rocket and manages lunar land development. Kennedy Space Center launches missions.
As a result, a number of organizations and consultants outside of NASA have criticized NASA for its failure to manage the myriad elements that go into the Artemis mission.
For example, the Office of the NASA Inspector General recently stated that “Otherwise, the first missions to the lunar surface under the Apollo Program were initiated, NASA is overseeing NASA’s overall program manager for the Artemis missions, or is a prime contractor, as well as serving in the Radio Space Program. as a lead systems integrator.” The concern is that, without such an official, the purpose of cohesion would be lacking and the fight against infection.
But such are the duties that I have come to do. Mike Sarafin, a senior NASA engineer who successfully served as mission manager for Artemis I, will become the “mission development manager” for Artemis III. In an interview, Sarafin said that the Artemis Service Program remains in the stages of development, and he did not want to discuss the details yet. However, he sounds like he is responsible for overall planning and coordination for a complex flight to the surface of the Moon – bringing together the SLS rocket, the Orion spacecraft, and the Human Landing System program under one roof.
Sarafin seems to be the best option to lead the development of Artemis III. The Artemis 1 mission ran through a myriad of delays, overcoming challenges with liquid hydrogen fuel, and not one but two weeks of hurricanes before the mission finally took flight. And yet, through it all, he and his team brought the boat home in great shape, meeting or exceeding all of their goals on Sunday.
Another criticism of Diana is that she simply repeats the Apollo Program. If Artemis was fixed after several missions, such criticism is deserved. However, given the broad base of support for what is being done today, NASA is now believed to be on its way to not only exploring the South Pole of the Moon, but learning to live and work in deep space, and eventually sending humans deeper into the Solar System. Reason
“We did the impossible there, it was possible,” Nelson said of Apollo. “Now we are doing it again, but to a different end. Now we are going back to the Moon to learn to live, to work, to create.”
The greatest happiness imaginable for Diana was that she did not have a permanent period on Apollo. In light of this weekend’s success, such a future is there for NASA to take. They and their partners only need to execute cleanly as per month.
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