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Artemis 1: Nasa’s Moon-observing CubeSat set for launch

According to US space agency Nasa, the Lunar IceCube satellite will journey to the Moon as a secondary payload on the landmark Artemis I mission

NASA’s next-generation moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) Artemis 1, is shown at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S (REUTERS)

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The Artemis 1 mission is all set to launch on 29 August. US space agency Nasa confirmed recently the launch of its water-scouting cube satellite (CubeSat) Lunar IceCub, among a host of other miniaturised satellites, as a part of the Artemis 1 mission. Artemis 1 will make a four-mile journey from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 18 as a part of the Satellite Launch System (SLS) rocket and eventually roll out on an uncrewed lunar journey by August 29. 

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Artemis 1 will mark the first ever launch of the SLS rocket that has been integrated with the satellites. The Lunar IceCube cubeSat, weighing just 31 pounds, will study the Moon singularly. Orbiting the Moon, the Lunar IceCube will use a spectrometer to investigate lunar ice, the space agency explains on its we . While previous expeditions by Nasa discovered the presence of water ice on the moon, the Artemis 1 mission will explore further into the water ice dynamic on the celestial body to understand how it changes and interacts with its environment, a Nasa statement explains. 

According to NASA: “scientists are interested in how the water is absorbed and released from regolith—the Moon’s rocky and dusty surface.” This would not only extend NASA's understanding of the elements on Moon but also allow the possiblity to evaluate the atmosphere that surrounds the moon – the exosphere, which is a very thin atmosphere-like volume surrounding the Moon.

The attempt would be to test the viability of these elements as possible resources for future missions. With the many satellites aboard Artemis 1, Nasa would try to extend its investigation into different elements, resources, atmospheric dynamics of water ice on Moon and eventually the red planet Mars.

Astronauts last explored the moon in 1972. The first of the 12 moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, stepped onto the dusty gray surface on July 20, 1969, while Michael Collins orbited the moon, an AP report explains. The report explains: "The 30-story Space Launch System rocket and attached Orion capsule are currently in the hangar at Kennedy Space Center, following repairs stemming from last month’s countdown test. Fuel leaks and other technical trouble cropped up during NASA’s repeated launch rehearsals at the pad."

At 322 feet (98 meters), the rocket and Orion capsule are taller than the Statue of Liberty. If Orion’s trip to the moon and back goes well, astronauts could climb aboard in 2023 for a lunar loop-around and actually land in 2025, the report adds.

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