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Countdown to Saturday’s launch of Artemis I

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That will be NASA’s mantra on Saturday as it tries for the second time to launch Artemis I, the first mission in a program aimed at taking Americans back to the moon before the end of the decade.

NASA attempted to send Artemis I up on Monday, but was forced to scrub the launch because of engine issues.

When Saturday’s launch window opens at 2:17 p.m., Dr. Brandon Johnson, an associate professor with Purdue University’s department of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, will be watching.

Johnson, whose field of expertise is impact crater dynamics, says the Artemis missions will tell NASA — and the world — a lot about the moon.

“One of the big, big questions that we have about the moon is just how it formed. We think it formed when a giant body, maybe the size of Mars, hit the Earth and actually produced the moon. Artemis missions will tell us more about how that happened…as well as some other really exciting science questions.”

Artemis I is an uncrewed mission to test the Space Launch System rocket, carrying the Orion spacecraft, for the first time. Johnson says the third Artemis mission is “gonna be the big one.”

“That’s the one with humans on the moon, bringing back samples and things like that,” Johnson said. “The South Pole is where we expect astronauts to land with Artemis III, which we hope will happen around 2025.”

Someone else who will be watching and waiting for Saturday’s launch is Joel Manship, vice president of business development at Indy-based Major Tool & Machine.

Major Tool & Machine is engaged in the Artemis I project “from tip to tail,” Manship says.

“We’re involved on the propulsion end, so both the rocket boosters that are used for the initial liftoff as well as the main engines, which are repurposed space shuttle main engines from the space shuttle program,” Manship said. “As a manufacturer, we take a lot of pride in that.”

The company’s — and Indiana’s — involvement in Artemis I goes beyond the rocket boosters and engines.

“Then, you look at other segments within the core stage itself, which is where all the liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen, the liquid fuel is used for liftoff and sustained flight, and then, even on the Orion capsule, we were heavily engaged as well,” Manship explained.

After the mission, the group at Major Tool & Machine will take lessons learned from Artemis I and apply them to Artemis II.

“So, mechanically, we may see some changes. I think primarily the changes are gonna be maybe in some systems, electronics, life support, things of that nature,” Manship said. “If it all works, then Major Tool did a good job. If it doesn’t, then we need to go back and revisit the design and see what can be done better.”