We're one small step closer to going back to the moon!
NASA recently tested the core stage of their Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the Artemis lunar missions at the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The "hot fire" test is the final stage in a series of eight critical tests that ensure the core stage's integrated systems are operating and ready for assembly. The goal was to have all four RS-25 engines firing for at least eight minutes, but it was shut down after just one.
NASA inspections show core stage and engines for @NASA_SLS in excellent shape. Data show test parameters used for ground test but not for #Artemis flight led to computer shutdown of Green Run hot fire test. For more: https://t.co/yWEUubshoc pic.twitter.com/W3mToL6dv6— Kathy Lueders (@KathyLueders) January 19, 2021
Fortunately, it doesn't seem like there were any major issues with the rocket. After inspection, officials determined the shutdown was triggered by exceeding intentionally conservative test parameters specifically designed for ground tests. If the same scenario happened during an actual launch, the rocket would've kept on flying.
“Saturday’s test was an important step forward to ensure that the core stage of the SLS rocket is ready for the Artemis I mission, and to carry crew on future missions. Although the engines did not fire for the full duration, the team successfully worked through the countdown, ignited the engines, and gained valuable data to inform our path forward,” says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
NASA officials say that they met several important objectives and gained valuable data to better prepare them for their historic mission to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. Though the test was cut short, it's still exciting to watch history in the making.
You can see the full NASA broadcast below, with interviews leading up to the test, or skip to 2:06:25 to see the action:
NASA announced on January 29 they would be performing a second hot fire test sometime during the last week of February. If all goes well, the core stage will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, where engineers will assemble the Artemis rocket and Orion spacecraft to prepare for launch later this year.
Interestingly enough, the Saturn V rocket that powered the 1969 Apollo mission to the moon was also tested at the Stennis Space Center. Maybe the Artemis missions will put the Apollo moon landing conspiracy theories to rest once and for all.
What do you think about the Artemis mission? Are you excited about going back to the moon? Blast off in the comments.