The NASA space agency launched the small space probe CAPSTONE on Tuesday. In four months, she is to enter an orbit around the moon that has never been completed before. The goal is to see how that plays out, as astronauts could take the same route for years to come.
CAPSTONE, the size of a microwave oven, was launched in New Zealand with a rocket from space company Rocket Lab. The explorer will study an orbit around the moon where NASA eventually wants to float a small space station. Astronauts must dock there before and after their visit to the moon.
The goal is for humans to land on the Moon again by 2025 at the earliest, for the first time since the 1970s. last century.
CAPSTONE stands for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment. The probe must make an orbit that will bring it relatively close to the moon once every seven days; namely about 355 kilometers. On the other six days of the week, it covers much more distance: the furthest point is more than 70,800 kilometers away. Then he comes back. Since NASA has never placed a device in this orbit before, this small unmanned probe is sent first.
CAPSTONE’s mission, once on the Moon, will last at least six months. Among other things, the explorer will study the best way to stay in the correct orbit around the moon. It also measures the time it takes for radio signals transmitted by the probe to reach Earth.
The launch of this explorer can be considered the very beginning of the Artemis program. The Artemis 1 mission is due in August at the earliest. This is the first test flight of NASA’s mega rocket, the Space Launch System. The Orion capsule that lands on it will eventually take people to the moon and back.
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