Do We Have the Technology to Go to the Moon?
There are a number of reasons that we still haven’t conquered the moon. Among them are the costs and the technology needed. While we no longer have the equipment from the Apollo missions, there are many similarities between our current space exploration missions and the ones done by the Apollo astronauts.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Heavy
A SpaceX rocket may have the technology to go to the moon, but there are potential risks. One of the biggest problems could be the space junk it might create. The company is trying to mitigate the risks by designing its next generation of satellites with visors and blackened surfaces. It is also collaborating with researchers to solve some of the problems.
One of SpaceX’s rockets has been hurtling through space for almost seven years. It was launched from Florida in February 2015, aiming to send a space weather satellite on a million-mile journey. The rocket’s engines burned for a long time before deploying the NOAA Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite. The spacecraft has reached the Lagrange point, a gravity-neutral location nearly four times farther away than the moon and aligned with the sun.
While the Falcon Heavy has the capability to send a payload to the moon, the technology to actually send a crew to the moon is not yet ready. SpaceX and NASA need to fly the rocket seven times with fully approved pressurized gas canisters before the company can launch a commercial moon mission.
The space company is also planning to send a lander to the Moon. The spacecraft would be launched from SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and could be partnered with a NASA spacecraft called Orion. The lander would carry experiments and instruments. There would also be space for a radio telescope on the far side of the Moon, which would allow us to peer back into the earliest age of galaxy formation.
After three years of delays, the rocket finally lifted off for the first time. The Falcon Heavy is the world’s biggest rocket, with the ability to send 64 metric tonnes into orbit. That’s more than double the capacity of the Delta IV Heavy.
A commercial launch of the Falcon Heavy is a massive step for the space industry. SpaceX has launched nearly 50 missions this year with the Falcon 9, but the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket is still in its early days. Its first launch was in September 2013. In March 2014, SpaceX published specifications for the new v1.1 of the rocket. The company has reserved 30% of the rocket’s performance for reusability testing. The company plans to attempt four more missions before 2023.
A Falcon Heavy has been on six test flights from 2013 to 2016. Six of these flights successfully performed a soft landing and booster recovery. However, one test flight ended in a disaster as its centre core failed to land on a sea-faring platform.
While the SpaceX rocket did not return to Earth, it did launch satellites. The two missions were designed to send research satellites into orbit, but they were not aimed at a lunar mission. However, the rocket’s booster was too high to return to Earth’s atmosphere, and it lacked the energy to break out of the gravitational fields of the Earth-Moon system.
SpaceX’s Artemis technology
SpaceX’s Artemis technology for going into orbit around the moon could enable humans to live and work on the moon in the future. The company’s plan is to send astronauts to the moon’s south polar region once a year to search for ice deposits in permanently shadowed craters, which could be converted into rocket fuel. However, the astronauts must first get to the moon, pass through its 240,000-mile gulf, and return safely to Earth.
A recent report by NASA’s inspector general revealed that the development technologies needed to safely land astronauts on the moon’s surface are not likely to be ready before 2026. This means that SpaceX’s Artemis technology is crucial to reaching the moon’s surface in the next decade.
While the Apollo program remains NASA’s greatest accomplishment, it was built using 1960s technology and took eight years to complete. Artemis, on the other hand, has been in development for more than a decade. It’s a follow-up to the short-lived Constellation program. Apollo sent 12 astronauts to the moon from 1969 to 1972 and stayed on the moon for about three days at a time. Unlike the Apollo mission, Artemis’s crews will stay on the moon for up to a week at a time.
A Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once it reaches orbit, the Orion module will detach and travel to the Moon. This module will stay in orbit for about 64,373 kilometres beyond the moon’s surface before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean near California. The Orion module will carry a variety of deep space radiation experiments.
Commercial spaceflight companies such as SpaceX have developed technologies that could safely land astronauts on the moon. Although SpaceX has not yet performed an orbital test flight of its Starship, CEO Elon Musk has said it’s a top priority. The next launch of NASA’s SLS rocket could be a crucial test flight for Artemis. A successful launch would make it easier to secure political support for the program.
With these costs in mind, the Artemis program has become one of NASA’s top priorities. While the Artemis program will be a public-private partnership, both organizations will benefit. In return for SpaceX’s investment, NASA will get a new lunar lander for a fraction of the cost of the Apollo-era craft. The result would be a significant step toward Mars for humans.
In the meantime, SpaceX will be able to deliver its commercial Lunar Payload Services program to deliver scientific instruments and robotic rovers to the Moon. The company plans to use a Falcon Heavy launcher to deliver the Gateway Module to the lunar surface. The company is also working on the design of the commercial lunar lander and a crew habitat module. The company’s goal is to have astronauts living on the moon in the future.
SLS is a high-powered rocket that weighs 5.7 million pounds when fully fueled. Its four liquid-fueled RS-25 engines generate 8.8 million pounds of thrust. The solid rocket boosters are a reusable design from the Space Shuttle. The core stage is orange in color due to a thermal protection system made from spray-on foam insulation. NASA is currently using Block 1 SLS to launch its Artemis missions.
The Space Launch System (SLS) is an enormous rocket. Its construction has been mandated by Congress. The program is already a few years behind schedule. But the Space Launch System also gives Russian President Vladimir Putin leverage in the face of US sanctions over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
The SLS will eventually evolve to a Block 1B configuration, which uses a more powerful Exploration Upper stage. The Exploration Upper stage will be able to send up to 42 tons of cargo and astronauts to the Moon. Moreover, SLS will have a universal stage adapter, like a trunk on a big van, which will enable the launch of a large cargo and astronauts at the same time.
The SLS uses upgraded components from the Space Shuttle, including the core rocket stage, which is a stretched version of the shuttle’s fuel tank. The SLS’ four main engines are used to power the rocket stage. This makes the core stage of the SLS lighter and allows for a moon-bound trajectory.
The Yenisei program is a big bet on an ultra-powerful rocket that could propel a cosmonaut across vast distances. If the Yenisei rocket proves to be a reliable rocket, it could allow the Russians to send a crew to the Moon on their own in the coming years. If successful, the Yenisei rocket could even force the Americans to accept Russian cosmonauts on the moon.
A six-week test flight named Artemis 1 will test SLS technology to launch Orion, the crew capsule that will travel to the moon in the near future. The test will also verify whether the Orion crew capsule is safe for humans to fly in the future. The capsule has more than a thousand sensors onboard to measure acceleration and vibration.
The SLS is expected to be able to launch on a test flight in 2020. Once this is accomplished, it will join NASA’s crash effort to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. This new lunar mission is estimated to cost $30 billion. A down payment of $600 million has already been approved by Congress for this mission.
The Space Launch System will also launch astronauts to Mars in the near future. It will be the most powerful launch vehicle since the 1960s. The US has been sending astronauts to the International Space Station for 20 years and plans to send astronauts to the moon and Mars in the next decade.
The Orion capsule will make an orbit and a half around the Moon in the first test. It will be the farthest human-carrying spacecraft ever. Its cameras will send spectacular images back to Earth. These images will be the best quality pictures ever sent from the Moon.
The Apollo Moon Program was an enormous project that involved 400,000 Americans and was totally new from the ground up. Despite the short timeline and limited funds, it was a success. However, it also involved two major accidents: the Apollo 1 launch pad fire and the Apollo 13 oxygen tank explosion. However, the astronauts eventually returned safely to Earth.