With NASA ’s Orion Abort-System Test, Americans Just Took a Small (and Very Big) Step Closer to the Moon

It was a modest little rocket scheduled to make a modest little flight, and yet an awful lot of people showed up at Cape Canaveral before dawn this morning to watch it happen. They had good reason to be there. With the flight, America’s planned return to the moon by 2024 moved a small but critical step closer. Easily the most harrowing part of the next lunar flight will be the first, when astronauts climb into their Orion spacecraft at the top of a rocket 36 stories tall, sloshing with more than 5 million pounds of fuel, and ground controllers effectively set it all on fire. If things work as they should, the fire will be precisely controlled, producing a thrust that will exceed 7.5 million lbs. and sending the crew on a fast climb to space. But there’s no guarantee that things will go as they should and the wrong kind of accident would be utterly unsurvivable. If the Apollo program’s Saturn V moon rocket had blown up just after liftoff, it would have produced the largest human-generated non-nuclear explosion in history. Keeping the astronauts alive thus means equipping the rocket with a system that can detect the signs of an imminent explosion and instantly blast the spacecraft up and away from the doomed rocket, allowing the crew to make a safe parachute descent into the ocean. Testing that system was the reason the modest little rocket was sent on its modest little flight today. Ignition was planned for 7:00 a.m. E.T., less than half an hour after sunris...
Source: TIME: Science - Category: Science Authors: Tags: Uncategorized abort test Artemis Canaveral moon NASA Orion space Source Type: news