Artemis I: the most powerful rocket in history has successfully taken off, the United States is once again in the race for the Moon

Early this morning, the powerful SLS launcher lifted off from Kennedy Space Center and orbited the Orion vehicle bound for the Moon for a 25-day mission. This successful launch opens a new era of human exploration with the focus on a sustainable installation on the Moon and a first manned mission to Mars.

They did it ! Americans are once again in the race for the Moon. The powerfull launcherlauncher SLS, made by Boeing, on board which is the Orion vehicle, built by Lockheed Martin, took off early this morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. So off we go for a 25-day mission that will see OrionOrion fly over and circle around the Moon. His return to Earth is scheduled for December 11.

Relive the liftoff of NASA’s massive rocket, SLS, en route to the Moon. © Futura

This first Artemis flight is an uncrewed test flight. Its purpose is to qualify this new manned space transport system and to test Orion and its service module inside its flight envelope and to see under what conditions and how it can operate in very varied flight configurations. After this mission, Artemis II will be the first manned lunar mission since Apollo 17 in 1972. This mission is currently scheduled for May 2024 and will consist of a overviewoverview of the Moon without landing. She will carry a crew of three astronautsastronauts from NASA as well as an astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It is only with Artemis III, that the Americans will return to the Moon, with a crew of two astronauts including a woman and a person of colorcolor. NASA plans this mission in 2025 but it seems unlikely that it will be able to do so before 2028, mainly because SpaceX’s lunar Starship will not be ready in 2025.

A new era dawns

The successful launch of the Artemis I mission opens a new era of human exploration with the return of Man to the Moon wanted by ex-President Donald Trump and at a time when the space economy is changing with the arrival of the private sector in space. It should be remembered that Barack Obama had put an end in 2010 to the Constellation program to return to the Moon launched by George W. Bush, preferring to set NASA more distant objectives (Mars, asteroidsasteroids), but with very uncertain deadlines. Unlike Barack Obama, Donald Trump had understood that there is a strategic and economic interest in returning to the Moon, before flying to Mars, but also the need to always be one step ahead of China in technology. which also made the Moon a priority objective.

The Moon Race with China

If in the era of the Apollo missions the United States was engaged in a race for the Moon with the Soviets, 50 years later they are fighting against China. Today, Russia no longer has the human and technological means of its past ambitions. Added to this is the fact that its war against Ukraine risks penalizing it in the long term, especially since the Chinese are less enthusiastic about making it a leading partner in its exploration programs.

How will the Artemis I mission around the Moon unfold?

And in this area, China’s ambitions are high. It clearly made the Moon a major objective of its space program in 2004 with an ambitious program roboticsrobotics lunar exploration (Chang’e missions), which provides for three more missions, including two to the lunar South Pole to prepare the ground for future manned missions. From the 2030s, China has planned the installation of a manned moon base, in which the participation of Russia initially planned before the Ukrainian conflict is today subject to many questions. The lunar adventure has only just begun.

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