RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – In just one month, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is testing its chariot to the moon.
The first chapter of NASA’s Artemis 1 space program will launch from Cape Canaveral aboard the Orion Spacecraft and be sent on a lunar orbit in August, but it wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of researchers in Virginia.
This mission will pave the way for mankind’s return to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.
NASA physicist Dr. Jennifer Inman says we still have a lot to learn.
“When people say ‘Well, we’ve already been to the moon.’ Well, we haven’t really been to the moon. Our predecessors were the ones who paved the way. But most of us weren’t part of those missions back then,” said Inman.
NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton is helping make these missions possible.
Researchers have spent years developing a wide range of new technologies for this journey. Thanks to the research center, astronauts will be able to safely escape the launch pad in an emergency, they’ll have the tools to build structures in space, and be able to safely splash into the ocean on the way back down to Earth.
“We also have been working on a space radiation garment. So in the event of solar radiation storms, we want to have a garment that provides extra layers of protection to our astronauts,” she said. “We have some real radiation challenges to solve, especially when we go to Mars.”
Re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere is especially important to Inman. She started at NASA right around the space shuttle Columbia disaster. Her work today ensures that the Orion Spacecraft’s heat shield will hold during re-entry.
“We need to do this right. We need to get this right in the future. And so, the human aspect of what we do has been very impactful to me,” Inman said.
She hopes Virginians’ work with the Artemis program inspires the next generation to take us, beyond.
“There are unsolved challenges that remain and I hope that the next generation will see some of those challenges and start thinking, ‘how can we solve that?'” Inman said.
“Getting to Mars is not just a little bit harder than getting to the moon, it’s tremendously harder. And that’s exciting to me,” Inman continued. “And it’s exciting working with engineers who want to solve these very complicated problems that we have between where we are now and where we want to go.”
Artemis 1 is expected to launch on August 29th.