More than 50 years ago, NASA sent the first humans to the Moon and nicknamed the mission: “Apollo”. Now, NASA is preparing to send the first woman and first person of color to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program.

NASA planned to launch the #Artemis I, an unmanned mission that will send NASA spacecraft around the Moon, yesterday, August 29, 2022. However, it was sadly cancelled due to an issue detected on one of the rocket’s main engines (precisely an engine bleed) that could not be resolved. NASA had a two-hour window for launch on Sunday the 29th of August. Though it didnt’t work out — the Agency has another two-hour window during which it would launch on September 2 at 12:480m (Friday), as well as a 1.5-hour launch window on September 5.

With all the publicity and pressure surrounding this launch, it must have been a difficult call to postpone the launch. However, it was a wise decision to postpone as the disaster of the ‘Challenger’ explosion is still too fresh in our memories. In 1986, the pressure on NASA was so intense that they launched the ‘Challenger’, when they shouldn’t have and all crew members, died.

The crew of the doomed ‘Challenger’

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was a fatal accident on January 28, 1986, in the United States space program where the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members aboard. It was the first fatal accident involving an American spacecraft in flight.

The crew was scheduled to deploy a communications satellite and study Halley’s Comet while they were in orbit. The spacecraft disintegrated above the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11:39 a.m. EST (16:39 UTC).

The disaster was caused by the failure of the two redundant O-ring seals in a joint in the shuttle’s right solid rocket booster (SRB). The record-low temperatures of the launch reduced the elasticity of the rubber O-rings, reducing their ability to seal the joints. The broken seals caused a breach into the joint shortly after liftoff, which allowed pressurized gas from within the SRB to leak and burn through the wall to the adjacent external fuel tank. This led to the breakage of the right-hand SRB’s aft attachment, which caused it to crash into the external tank, which caused a structural failure of the external tank and an explosion. Following the explosion, the orbiter, which included the crew compartment, was broken up by aerodynamic forces.

The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the Space Shuttle program. President Ronald Reagan created the Rogers Commission to investigate the accident. The commission criticized NASA’s organizational culture and decision-making processes that had contributed to the accident. Test data since 1977 had revealed a potentially catastrophic flaw in the SRBs’ O-rings. Neither NASA, nor Morton Thiokol (the SRB manufacturer), addressed the issue. NASA managers also disregarded engineers’ warnings about the dangers of launching in cold temperatures and did not report these technical concerns to their superiors.

As a result of the disaster, NASA established the Office of Safety, Reliability, and Quality Assurance, and arranged for deployment of commercial satellites from expendable launch vehicles rather than from a crewed orbiter.

In early August, NASA said it’s aiming to launch the Artemis II mission in 2024. That mission will send astronauts on a lunar flyby test, making it the first crewed mission to go beyond Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) since 1972.

Then, in 2025, NASA aims to launch the Artemis III mission, sending the first woman and the first person of color to the surface of the moon.

With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. They aim to collaborate with commercial and international partners to establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. NASA, hopes to use what they learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.

How did NASA come by these names for her space programs?

In 1958, as NASA planned her human spaceflight missions, Dr. Abe Silverstein was Director of Space Flight Programs. He chose the name “Apollo” for the missions after perusing a book of mythology at home one evening in 1960. He said the image of “Apollo riding his chariot across the sun was appropriate to the grand scale of the proposed program.

Indeed, in Greek history, Apollo is the god of the Sun — a central figure in mythological astronomy — as well as the god of archery, prophecy, poetry, and music. Artemis is the daughter of the sky god and king of gods, Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo .

Thus, when NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on May 13, 2019, that the space agency’s efforts to return to the Moon would be named the Artemis program, it seemed an obvious choice. It had been 50years after the 1st space program and going into the new era, who better to name the space missions after, than Apollo’s fale twin, the goddess Artemis, who was heavily associated with our natural satellite, and also the twin of Apollo, whose moniker graced NASA’s first round of lunar missions.

#I love talking “space” simply because I am IN AWE of the Universe and the God who holds all in balance!

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