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Artist’s representation of the Artemis lunar module. Source: NASA via Wikipedia

This is a twofold post. First, some gripes about the media. And second, a little about NASA’s program to return to the moon and, eventually, to go to Mars.

Some gripes

I fell for the clickbait and its down-with-billionaires appeal. NASA wasn’t on my radar screen, and I was distracted by the breathless media coverage of billionaires and their little rockets. It would have been easy to suppose that NASA was being upstaged and supplanted by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. But an excellent piece in yesterdays’s Washington Post (a piece with no clickbait appeal) made it clear that that’s not the case. The article is “NASA looks to a future that includes flights to the moon and Mars as it reorganizes.” This is a good piece for starting to get up to speed on what NASA is doing today.

The piece is an interview with Bill Nelson of NASA. The commercial space industry, Nelson says, allows “NASA to get out of low Earth orbit and go explore.” The media have had very little to say about this, having focused on rage and turmoil on earth (and on low earth orbit, where billionaires are having so much fun). Apparently today’s media find Musk and Bezos more interesting than NASA. If you want to know what NASA is doing right now, you need to visit NASA’s web site. The Wikipedia article on Artemis, though poorly written, is comprehensive.

Moon launch

We actually have a NASA moon launch to look forward to later this year, in November or December, if the launch is on schedule. This first launch is covered in a separate Wikipedia article on the first stage of the Artemis program, Artemis 1. This flight will be a test with no humans on board. This year’s flight will be an exciting mission because NASA will be launching, for the first time, its biggest rocket ever. The new SLS rocket will produce 15 percent more thrust than the Saturn V rockets used in the Apollo program.

The third stage of the Artemis program, stage 3, is scheduled for 2024. Two astronauts are to land on the moon and remain there for just under a week.

Here is a YouTube video of NASA’s test firing of the rocket earlier this year, at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. This is a long video. You can skip ahead to about 51 minutes when they actually light up the rocket. Before the rocket starts, you’ll see lots of water flowing. That’s to keep the test site from melting down. By the way, I have seen a rocket engine test-fired at the Stennis Space Center. It was an impressive sight that I will never forget. I have never seen a rocket launch, though. That just might be worth a trip to Cape Canaveral in 2024.

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