When they thought that the Artemis I mission had been completely successful, the scientists of the POT They found a problem with the thermal hearing of the Orion spacecraft, the same one in which man will return to the Moon in the coming years.
According to a report published on the website of 20 minutes, Orion was launched at the end of 2022 aboard the SLS megarocket and demonstrated that it was capable of reaching temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 ºC), the heat it had to endure for its reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. For this, it was equipped with the heat shield.
However, engineers from the US space agency found that Orion suffered wear on the protective layer, denying what was said by Howard Hu, the ship’s program manager, who stated that “it had exceeded all performance expectations.”
After a 26-day trip to the Moon and a re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere with good results, the unmanned capsule fell into the Pacific Ocean on December 11. After a series of inspections and tests to make sure everything was fine, the researchers noticed some unforeseen issues with the heat shield.
“Some of the charred material was removed differently than our computer models and our ground tests predicted. More of this charred material was released during re-entry,” Hu said.
To study the case, experts will have to examine each thermal protection block individually, which is more than 180. Hu stressed that these unexpected results are not a safety issue, but investigations have to be done, as it is something that predictive models did not forecast.
Does this unforeseen change the plans for Artemis II?
This week, the US space agency announced that the Artemis II mission will take place in November 2024, that is, a year before Artemis III. The report adds that Orion’s heat shield contingency does not change plans.
On Artemis II, NASA will send four astronauts, including one Canadian, but the names of those chosen have not yet been revealed. The truth is that in this mission they will not land on the Moon, but will circle around it.
If Artemis II replicates the success of the first mission, in November 2025 Artemis III will send four more astronauts, a crew that could include a woman, a non-Caucasian and a European, who will touch down on the lunar surface.