Back to the Moon, Onward to Mars: Artemis I

NASA's infographic: 'Artemis I Map' (2018)

Nobody’s in the Artemis I Mission’s Orion capsule.

But if today’s test flight goes well, Artemis II will carry four folks around the Moon before returning to Earth. And Artemis III will bring humans to the Moon’s surface for the first time since 1972.

Update September 5, 2022

Updating my September 3, 2022 update; NASA posted another update, detailing issues the Artemis I team found. Looks like the earliest possible launch date now is September 19.

As I said yesterday, a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach makes sense for this test flight.

And, since these updates are taking up considerable room, putting a link to “I’ll be taking a look at where we’ve been….” which introduced links to this week’s post sections. Happily, what I had ready for this week didn’t depend on the moon rocket taking off on schedule.

Times listed for the NASA update is EDT.

NASA to Stand Down on Artemis I Launch Attempts in Early September, Reviewing Options
Rachel Kraft, Artemis, NASA (September 3, 2022; 6:26 p.m.)
“After standing down on today’s Artemis I launch attempt when engineers could not overcome a hydrogen leak in a quick disconnect, an interface between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, mission managers met and decided they will forego additional launch attempts in early September.
“Over the next several days, teams will establish access to the area of the leak at Launch Pad 39B, and in parallel conduct a schedule assessment to provide additional data that will inform a decision on whether to perform work to replace a seal either at the pad, where it can be tested under cryogenic conditions, or inside the Vehicle Assembly Building….”

Update September 3, 2022

Today’s Artemis I test flight has been called off.

Seems that the weather at the Kennedy Space Center was okay, but a seal for one of the fuel tanks wasn’t.

I’m a little frustrated, and slightly disappointed; but not surprised. The Space Launch System is a very complex system. And expensive. I don’t mind that NASA is taking a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach.

Here are the most recent (It’s 11:10 a.m. here in Minnesota, 12:10 p.m. in Florida) Artemis I updates I’ve seen:

Times listed for the NASA updates are EDT.

NASA to Stand Down on Artemis I Launch Attempts in Early September, Reviewing Options
Rachel Kraft, Artemis, NASA (September 3, 2022; 6:26 p.m.)
“After standing down on today’s Artemis I launch attempt when engineers could not overcome a hydrogen leak in a quick disconnect, an interface between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, mission managers met and decided they will forego additional launch attempts in early September.
“Over the next several days, teams will establish access to the area of the leak at Launch Pad 39B, and in parallel conduct a schedule assessment to provide additional data that will inform a decision on whether to perform work to replace a seal either at the pad, where it can be tested under cryogenic conditions, or inside the Vehicle Assembly Building….”

Artemis I Launch Attempt Scrubbed
Rachel Kraft, Artemis, NASA (September 3, 2022; 11:22 am)

“The launch director waived off today’s Artemis I launch attempt at approximately 11:17 a.m. EDT. Teams encountered a liquid hydrogen leak while loading the propellant into the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket. Multiple troubleshooting efforts to address the area of the leak by reseating a seal in the quick disconnect where liquid hydrogen is fed into the rocket did not fix the issue. Engineers are continuing to gather additional data.”

Liquid Hydrogen Leak Detected Once Again
Rachel Kraft, Artemis, NASA (September 3, 2022; 10:28 a.m.)

“After the third troubleshooting attempt, the liquid hydrogen leak has occurred again. Teams are discussing next steps.”

Liquid Hydrogen Flows Again to Core Stage Tank
Rachel Kraft, Artemis, NASA (September 3, 2022; 10:18 a.m.)

“After warming up the area of the liquid hydrogen leak, engineers are once again flowing liquid hydrogen to the core stage.”

I’ll be taking a look at where we’ve been, and why ‘phantom’ torsos are riding along with Commander Moonikin Campos.

I’ll also be watching NASA TV’s coverage. 😀

Launch coverage begins at 12:15 p.m. EDT, 4:15 p.m. UTC, September 3, 2022:

Looking Back, and Ahead

Collage: Apollo 11, Tranquility Base; people around the world watched humanity's first walk on another world. (July 1969)

Thomas Voter's cover for Robert A. Heinlein's 'Rocket Ship Galileo,' Scribner's first edition. (May 1, 1947) Thomas Voter/Scribner, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission.I remember when going to Earth’s moon was becoming less science fiction and more political issue.

The Apollo program’s moon landings were among the most exciting events of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although levels of excitement varied considerably.

For example, I didn’t see Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell’s broadcast on the mission’s third day.

This was 1970, when news wasn’t news unless at least one of the television networks decided it was news. Or The New York Times decided it was fit to print, and that’s another topic.

Lovell’s April 13, 1970, broadcast was live in Mission Control. Period. I’ve been told that ‘the public grew apathetic’ about the Apollo program. Maybe so.

At any rate, Apollo 13 wasn’t news until a few minutes after that broadcast ended. That’s when a routine stirring of the service module’s number two oxygen tank started a fire which in turn made the tank explode.

That was news. So was the safe return of Apollo 13, and so were moments of the remaining four Apollo missions.

Then, in December of 1972, Harrison Schmitt — the first geologist on the moon — and Gene Cernan packed their gear, rejoined Ronald Evans in the orbiting command module, and returned home.

No human has visited Earth’s moon since.

On the other hand, we’ve hardly forgotten the place.

Robots, from Luna 21 and its Lunokhod 2 rover to the Chang’e 5 mission’s lander and rover, have been swarming on and around the Moon. And the last I heard, scientists are still studying stuff we brought back a half-century ago.1

So, why bother returning to the Moon?

The Moon, Mars, Motives and Being Human

NASA/Clouds AO/SEArch's illustration: An artist's rendering of the Mars Ice Home concept. 'NASA Langley’s Icy Concept for Living on the Red Planet.' (December 29, 2016)Economic motives may be in the mix; although humanity isn’t in desperate need of Element X, vital to maintenance of our atomic pogo sticks, and obtainable only on the Moon.

I’m pretty sure that there’s a political angle to the Artemis program, but I’m also pretty sure that we’re going back because we need a maintenance and refueling base near the Moon’s south pole.2

We need that outpost because we’ll be sending folks to Mars soon.

And we’ll be sending folks to Mars because — well, I think we’re going because we were human in the 1960s, and we still are.

In a sense, the first step of our journey to the Moon, Mars and beyond began when someone decided to see what’s over the next hill.

Now, uncounted generations later, “the next hill” is on other worlds.

I don’t see this as a problem.

Wondering what’s over the next hill, metaphorically at least, and curiosity in general, can be a problem. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2115-2116)

But it’s also part of being human.

And — I’ve said this before, often — paying attention to the wonders in this universe is a good idea.

We’re surrounded by beauty and wonders. Studying the created world’s order and harmony can help us better understand and appreciate God. Faith and reason, science and religion, get along fine; or should. That said, ‘it’s for science’ doesn’t make overly-risky experiments with humans okay. (Catechism, 32, 39, 283, 341, 2292-2295)

I don’t think exploring this universe will make any of us more — or less — likely to acknowledge God’s work and our nature.

But I don’t see a problem with getting a closer look at what’s beyond the next hill. Or being human.

“What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?
“Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.”
(Psalms 8:56)

“Terrible and awesome are you,
stronger than the ancient mountains.”
(Psalms 76:5)

“Yours are the heavens, yours the earth;
you founded the world and everything in it.”
(Psalms 89:12)

“Indeed, before you the whole universe is like a grain from a balance,
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.”
(Wisdom 11:22)

Radiation and Changing Attitudes

StemRad/NASA's photo: Helga and Zohar, 'phantom' torsos equipped with radiation sensors, stand-ins for Orion's crew for the Artemis I mission.
(From StemRad, via NASA, used w/o permission.)
(Artemis I ‘phantom’ torsos Helga and Zohar, testing radiation exposure.)

Posters produced at Oak Ridge National Laboratory: 'Radiation Need Not be Feared / But it Must Command Your Respect / Health Physics For Your Protection' (1947)My father told me that when he and his buddies were boys, they’d get free roller coaster rides at an amusement park. Until his mother learned what was happening.

My guess is that regulations back then made roller coaster operators test the rides at regular intervals, with weights simulating paying customers.

The tests could be done with sandbags, but a bunch of Irish kids would give more realistic results. And if something went wrong, well: Irish kids were less disposable than sandbags, but maybe not by much.

At any rate, my paternal grandmother put an end to my father’s free rides, ‘Irish Need Not Apply’ notices are a thing of the past, I don’t miss ‘the good old days,’ and that’s yet another topic.

More to the point, the Civil Aeronautics Administration’s Oscar and Elmer test dummies have been replaced by Hybrid III — and the ‘crew’ of Artemis I: Commander Moonikin Campos, Helga and Zohar.

Moonikin Campos, sitting in the commander’s seat, carries two radiation sensors and is wearing a first-generation Orion Crew Survival System suit. His seat has been outfitted with two acceleration and vibration sensors.

Helga and Zohar — Helga’s wearing an AstroRad radiation vest, Zohar isn’t — are part of the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment, or MARE. Each ‘phantom’ torso holds a three-centimeter sensor grid, embedded in material that acts like bone and soft tissue.3

Ionizing Radiation: New Science, Old Hazard

Black body radiation curve, Astronomy Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.That’s important, because Artemis missions will spend much more time around and on the Moon than the Apollo voyages.

Most of the Artemis I not-quite-38-day mission, for example, will be spend outside Earth’s Van Allen radiation belt.

We don’t have much information on long-term exposure to the sort of ionizing radiation the Orion capsule and virtual crew will experience. And even less on how it may affect women.

Backing up a bit: ionizing radiation is what we call electromagnetic radiation or subatomic particles carrying enough energy to knock electrons off atoms or molecules.

Radiobiology, medical science studying ionizing radiation, is a fairly new field. But we’ve been dealing with ionizing radiation since day one. High-end ultraviolet light is what makes sunburn a real health hazard.

And, starting in the early 20th century, some folks began panicking when “radiation” was mentioned. And that’s yet again another topic.4

Societal Summary, 1959-2022

Collage, pulp science fiction magazine covers.

Illustration by anonymous artist, iStock image, for 'How do you stop astronauts going mad?' Paul Marks, BBC Future (February 10, 2017)Not all pulp science fiction featured marauding Martian mechanical men and space aliens committing grand theft skyscraper, but the genre’s more colorful authors may have had undue influence on experts.

Space madness: the dreaded disease that never was
Matthew H.Hersch, Endeavour (March 2012) via ScienceDirect

“…psychiatrists working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1959 feared the worst of the men selected to be America’s first astronauts: that they would be impulsive, suicidal, sexually aberrant thrill-seekers. The examiners, though, were surprised — and a little disappointed — when tests revealed the would-be spacemen to be sane, poised professionals able to absorb extraordinary stresses….”

Since then, we’ve learned that astronauts are human: and are neither particularly prone to insanity nor likely to exhibit the emotional range of a stuffed frog.

We’ve learned that civilians can work in space without going bonkers, and — extending my societal summary beyond the space program — that women are people.

Most of us, that is.

I gather that a few wunderkinds are still astonished and incredulous when presented with a woman who acts as if “she’s smart as a man” isn’t a compliment. That may be why discussions of differences between men and women occasionally get weird.

On the ‘up’ side, it’s been decades since I’ve been told that there’s no difference between men and women. Which almost makes sense, since the tallest woman is taller than the shortest man; and some men aren’t as strong as the strongest woman.

Granted, humans aren’t like mandrills and gorillas — where males weigh, on average, twice as much as females.

But men and women aren’t indistinguishable. And the half of humanity that’s playing with a full deck, genetically speaking, is a bit more sensitive to ionizing radiation.

Which I see as a good reason for sending Helga and Zohar along on the Artemis I mission.

Data from their sensors, plus the experiences of ISS staff who have been wearing a version of the AstroRad radiation vest, will help mission planners keep folks safe in deep space.5

Which I think is a good idea.

Commander Moonikin Campos and the Artemis I Crew

NASA's photo: crash-test dummies, outfitted with suits and sensors, secured in an Orion test article before being dropped into Langley Research Center's Hydro Impact Basin. (2016)
(From NASA, used w/o permission.)
(Manikins in an Orion capsule test at Langley Research Center. (2016))

Now, about choosing a name for Commander Moonikin Campos. NASA had a contest, giving folks a choice of eight names for the space-suited crash test dummy/manikin.

“…We want your help to select a name for the suited manikin, or Moonikin in this case, that will fly aboard Orion to help gather data before missions with astronauts!…”

“…This Moonikin is a male-bodied manikin previously used in Orion vibration tests. He will be accompanied on Artemis I by….”
(“Bracket Contest to Help NASA Name ‘Moonikin’ Flying on Artemis I Mission Around Moon,” (June 15, 2021))

They started with a selection of eight names. Or, rather, seven names and an acronym.

  • ACE, for “Artemis Crew Explorer.”
  • CAMPOS, a dedication to Arturo Campos, key player in bringing Apollo 13 home.
  • DUHART, a dedication to Irene Duhart Long, chief medical officer at Kennedy Space Center from 2000 to 2010.
  • MONTGOMERY, dedication to Julius Montgomery, first African American to work as a technical professional at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, now known as Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
  • RIGEL, a giant superstar in the Orion constellation.
  • SHACKLETON, a crater on the Moon’s South Pole, which is named after famous Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.
  • WARGO, a dedication to Michael Wargo, NASA’s first chief exploration scientist.

More than 300,000 votes later, “Campos” was the winning name.

So Commander Moonikin Campos, Helga and Zohar will be leading humanity’s return to the Moon.

Assuming that the Saturday, September 3, 2022, Artemis I launch goes well. If it does, it’ll happen in the afternoon: after I’ve posted this.

I’m forgetting something. Right. Why the Monday launch was rescheduled.

One of the four RS-25 engines, number three, hadn’t been cooling off enough before Artemis I’s first launch attempt on Monday. That’s what the engine’s sensors said, at any rate.6 Taking a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach makes sense. To me, at any rate.

As for why for Moonikin Campos, “a male-bodied manikin,” is in the commander’s seat while Helga and Zohar are passengers: that’s still another topic, for another day.

A NASA Infographic and Assorted Links

NASA/Kevin O'Brien's infographic: 'The Space Launch System: NASA's Artemis I Moon Rocket' (2002)(From NASA/Kevin O’Brien, used w/o permission.)
(Artemis I Moon Rocket, from NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Infographics.)

Humanity’s long journey to the stars isn’t my only interest. But it’s at least in my top 20:

1 A little history:

2 Dreamers, scientists and technicians:

3 Miscellanea:

4 Radiation, Artemis I and a phobia:

5 Science, sex and differences:

6 More miscellania:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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