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NASA confirms success of Artemis I moon mission

NASA is continuing to analyze data from last year’s Artemis I test mission that sent an uncrewed spacecraft around the moon before returning safely home.

In a meeting on Tuesday, NASA officials confirmed that so far no major problems have surfaced that would prompt it to reschedule Artemis II, the mission set for late 2024 that will follow the same route as the first flight but this time with astronauts on board.

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Several issues have emerged, however. For example, after closely examining the Orion spacecraft, engineers noticed that parts of the ablative material that helps protect the capsule from the extreme heat of reentry wore away differently than predicted.

NASA is also examining an issue with the power system on Orion’s service module, though the agency appears confident it can resolve it in good time for the Artemis II mission.

On the plus side, NASA said the Orion accomplished 161 test objectives during a 25-day round-trip mission that fully demonstrated every aspect of the spacecraft.

“Data shows the European-built service module generated 20% more power than initial expectations and consumed about 25% less power than predicted,” NASA said. “All the spacecraft’s dynamic separation events, such as separation of the launch abort system during ascent and parachute deployment during landing — which involved 375 pyrotechnic devices total — were completed without issue.”

While the powerful SLS rocket powered the Orion to orbit flawlessly, the launch caused more damage than expected to the mobile launcher as the vehicle roared away from the ground.

“Work already is underway to repair damaged components in tandem with planned upgrades in preparation for Artemis II,” NASA said, noting that the damage to the mobile launcher included corrosion to fueling lines, around 60 broken panels and cabinets with instrumentation, and destruction to several elevators and blast shields.

With much of the Artemis I data now assessed, NASA is clearly feeling positive about the prospects for Artemis II and its plan to launch the mission next year.

“We’re learning as much as we possibly can from Artemis I to ensure we fully understand every aspect of our systems and feed those lessons learned into how we plan for and fly crewed missions,” said senior NASA official Jim Free, adding: “Safely flying crew is our top priority for Artemis II.”

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