February 2, 2023
See the differences between NASA's missions to the moon

See the differences between NASA’s missions to the moon

last time that Humans stepped on the lunar soil That was in 1972, on the Apollo 17 mission. Exactly 50 years later, it was NASA Make important progress to replicate your dream return to the moon in Artemis mission 1: whose mighty capsule He returned from space last Sunday (11), after a successful test flight.

In these five decades, space technologies have advanced a lot, but some things have remained almost the same. See the differences and similarities, in rockets and other systems, between the historic Apollo and Artemis programs.

Objectives: Beat Russia in exchange for Mars exploration

The main goal of the program Apollo It was to “win” the space race, during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union and the United States disputed world domination. And it did: the Soviets orbited and landed on the moon first, but the Americans are the only ones to have walked on a satellite so far.

The Orion capsule, with the “waning” Earth in the background, during the Artemis 1 mission

Image: NASA

And Artemis wants more: Stepping on the moon again is just the first step toward establishing a permanent human presence there, with a lunar base and orbital station.

The goal is that this entire structure will serve, in the future, to reach even further – in particular, to Mars – and to explore the depths of the solar system.

Orion Artemis Terra - NASA - NASA

Modern solar panels on the Orion spacecraft

Image: NASA

Spaceship: Astronauts will go further now

Both are small and basically consist of two parts:

  • Command module: We call it a capsule, and it’s where the astronauts stay.
  • Service unit: provides propulsion, electricity and air.

Apollo also had a lunar module attached, for moon landings – Artemis in the future will do it differently.

The Orion spacecraft โ€” which the astronauts will operate on upcoming flights โ€” apparently has much more technology than Apollo, allowing for missions of greater reach, duration and complexity, with more safety for the crew.

One of the similarities between the two is the re-entry process. At a speed of more than 40,000 km / h on land and the parachute sequence for landing at sea (landing), including altitude and deployment time of each one.

The main differences๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท

  • command unit Apollo weighs about 5400 kg; one of Orion It weighs about 10,400 lbs. Only this part returns to Earth; The rest becomes space junk.
  • Whereas a mission 50 years ago could have sent three crew members for up to 14 days in the spacecraft, Orion can house four astronauts for up to 21 days in space.
  • Because it’s larger, it requires the new NASA capsule the umbrella Larger.

More benefits of Orion:

  • Computer hardware, software, and composite materials including 3D printed parts, solar arrays, and heat shield are much more advanced
  • It will be able to transport humans farther than they have ever been in space.
  • There is 50% more living space available, so you can carry more tools, supplies, and people in comfort.
Moon Apollo - NASA - NASA

Service and command module of the Apollo spacecraft, orbiting the Moon

Image: NASA

The most powerful rocket ever built by NASA

The difference between them is, basically, the force and the way they are propelled into space. As a curiosity, both were launched from the famous platform 38 bFrom the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (USA).

In tandem, the Saturn V rocket, from the Apollo program, is slightly “higher” than the SLS (Space Launch System), from Artemis: 110 meters and 98 meters, respectively. But the size does not matter. The SLS is the most powerful rocket ever produced by NASA.

Saturn V and SLS rockets - NASA - NASA

Saturn V missiles (left) and SLS (right)

Image: NASA

You can also see that their construction is different. About 75% of the SLS’s thrust comes from two solid propellers (Solid Rocket reinforcementor SRBs) – those “mini missiles”, one on each side of the main stage.

Together with 4 engines RS-25By supplying it with liquid hydrogen and oxygen, more than 4 million kilograms of thrust is produced to leave the Earth.

Two minutes into the ascent, it was reinforcement Back to Earth (recoverable and reusable).

On the other hand, the Saturn 5 of the old mission had a single fuselage, without the SRBs – developed later, in the 1970s, for the Space Shuttle project (in fact, those for the SLS were adapted from it). The missile is powered by five F-1 engines, powered by kerosene, in its main stage, producing approximately 3.5 million kilograms of thrust at liftoff.

This means that the SLS produces about 15% more thrust than the Saturn 5 rocket, becoming the most powerful rocket in the world to fly yet โ€” soon, it could be surpassed by the Starship, which is being developed by Space X.

Several “test” missions

Both programs are complex, involving a series of tasks over a period of years. We talk a lot about Apollo 11, which put man on the moon for the first time, and Apollo 17, the last mission, but a total of 14 missions (from 4 to 17) went into space between 1961 and 1972.

Tragedy Apollo 1, which caught fire on Earth, killing three astronauts, prompted NASA to exercise extra caution.

The first to launch, Apollo 4, is comparable to Artemis 1: a flight without astronauts, to test communication, navigation and guidance systems.

The difference is that Apollo 4 only circled the Earth for 8 hours, reaching just over 18,000 km; Artemis 1 was an even more extreme test: It spent 43 days in space, and went farther than any ship designed to carry humans, 434,000 kilometers from our planet.

The future of Artemis 2

Artemis 2, due next year, will be a little more relaxed: a 10-day trip around the far side of the Moon, about 400,000 kilometers from Earth (the farthest in deep space from any human).

Yes, there will be four astronauts on board. Compared to Apollo 7 and 8 (9 and 10 were also similar but focused on lunar lander testing).

In 2025, finally, the goal is to “land on the Moon” and land two astronauts at the South Pole, a different and more challenging place than those visited during the Apollo program, with some areas always illuminated and others in eternal shadows, where it is expected that there will be ice.

Nobody landed there, not even a robotic mission. This is Artemis 3 – the “new” Apollo 11, carrying humans 13 and 14 to set foot on our satellite, if all goes as planned.

Coincidence or not, the return of Artemis 1 occurred exactly 50 years after man last stepped on the moon: on December 11, 1972, the astronauts on the mission Apollo 17, Eugene Cernan and Harrison SchmidtIt’s the last humans walking there.

NASA plans

If successful and funded, the Artemis program will do more than Apollo: install a “Lunar Gateway,” which will orbit our satellite and serve as a foothold for missions (like a mini space station), and create a permanently inhabited base on the satellite.

The other big difference is that it will be more inclusive, sending the first female astronaut and first black man to the moon โ€” on Apollo, it was white men only.