The first two launch attempts for the mission Artemis have failed. And after the latest blow, a massive loss of liquid hydrogen from the direct supply line to the central stage of the rocket, waiting times could become longer and longer: to try again by the end of September, NASA must in fact be able to repair the rocket in record time, and collect an extension of the certification of the safety from Us Space Forcewhich should be rechecked every 25 days. If not, don’t talk about it again before October. All that remains is to cross your fingers, therefore, because further delays and problems – not to mention an accident of course – could jeopardize the mission (criticized at home for some time due to the exorbitant costs), and with it our hopes of returning on the moon, at least in the near future. For many, a question seems inevitable: why so many problems nowadays, if we have already been to the Moon, with primitive technologies and a mission set up in just nine years? The truth? There were also problems at the time, because sending a spaceship to the moon is much, much, more difficult than we can imagine. But in that case, failing (or even just being late) was not an option.
The Apollo Mission
To understand the climate in which the first American mission to the Moon was organized, we must remember the historical period from which it was born. It was the 1961in full cold Warwith the space race which had assumed a strategic symbolic importance, when Kennedy he appeared before Congress to announce that they would reach the moon by the end of the decade. THE Soviet they had won it in the first two stages of the human adventure in Space, the launch of the first satellite, with the Sputnik 1 entered orbit in 1957, and the first astronaut to leave Earth’s atmosphere, Yuri Gagarin, in April of that year. And the United States needed overwhelming success to be able to reassert its own technological supremacy and military in the eyes of the world, Soviet rivals and the American people.
The goal dictated by the American president was therefore unprecedented: to bring a man on the moon with a newly born space agency, and without even having the technologies ready to send astronauts into space. To succeed in the enterprise, NASA was entrusted with the equivalent of 100 billion dollars today, and launched two twin space programs: the project Geminiwhich was to develop the country’s human spaceflight capability, e Apollo, dedicated to bringing Americans to the moon. Both would prove successful, but not without problems, accidents, and a healthy dose of luck and recklessness.
A dangerous mission
In such a race against time one could not proceed with too much haste. The huge machine born around NASA thanks to the billionaire injection of funds decided by Kennedy allowed to proceed in forced stagesand in just six years, in 1967 were ready for testing both the Apollo lunar moduleis the most powerful rocket ever built, the Saturn V, which should have brought it into our satellite’s orbit. American optimism, however, was destined to soon be reduced in the worst way. He happened upon a manned Apollo drill, scheduled for the mission’s departure Apollo 1which was supposed to test the new capsule in Earth orbit in February 1967. One month after launch, the astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward White And Roger Chaffee they entered the cockpit to check the launch procedures. The hatch of the capsule was closed, the interior pressurized with an atmosphere of pure oxygen. Then a voice yelled into the on-board radio “Fire. We have fire in the cockpit”, And the inside of the cabin was engulfed in flames. The fire was triggered by a spark escaped from a faulty cable and, powered by the oxygen present in the cockpit, left no escape for the three astronauts, blocked inside the cabin by a hatch that was not designed to be opened quickly in the event of an accident.
The tragic Apollo 1 accident it did not stop the American space program, but we just missed it. The capsule was redesigned from scratch to provide more safety for the astronauts. And subsequent flight tests suffered major delays, to make sure nothing went wrong so spectacularly. In fact, the first test of the Saturn Vthe mission Apollo 4, turned out to be a success. But the launch, comparable to that of Artemis 1 because it was meant to test the unmanned rocket, it eventually took place in November 1967, almost a year after the originally scheduled date. And only after NASA engineers managed to solve further 1,400 construction problems that emerged during an inspection ordered by the agency following the Apollo 1 accident.
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