Launching the Artemis 1
In September of 2022, NASA will launch a new rocket, the first of its kind since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. It’s called the Space Launch System, or SLS for short, and will be the most powerful rocket ever launched. The first mission, known as Artemis 1, will be an unmanned flight test meant to test the rocket's endurance and exposure to radiation and micrometeoroids. After Artemis 1, the plan is to launch the SLS about once a year, first to the moon, and eventually to Mars and beyond!
The Artemis 1 mission will travel at least 280,000 miles and last between 26 and 42 days. For a space mission normally scheduled to the minute, that 16 day travel window is a pretty wide gap. So why does Artemis not have a firm return date? Largely because everything in space is moving. Earth is rotating on its axis as it revolves around the Sun. While Earth is moving, the moon is also rotating around its axis and revolving around Earth. Each of these patterns of motion happens at a different rate. Depending upon the timing and position of the moon relative to Earth, it is possible Artemis will need an extra orbit of the moon. When it is time to fly home, reentry also must be carefully timed so that splashdown occurs in the Pacific Ocean near San Diego and during daylight hours so the reusable pieces can be recovered.
We experience Earth’s patterns of motion in familiar ways. Earth’s rotation is why we experience day and night. The phases of the moon are caused by the motions of Earth, the Moon, and the Sun relative to each other. Even our view of the constellations is a result of Earth’s revolution around the sun. Astronauts on Artemis 2 will experience a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes while orbiting Earth. In contrast, while orbiting the moon, they will see no sunrises or sunsets. But, the constellations will look the same to us as they do to the future astronauts. No matter where we go in the solar system, the stars as we see them on Earth would look the same.
Activity 1: The Night Moves Hands-On Activity
HMH Into Science is a great place to explore how patterns of motion impact what we see from Earth. The program features hands-on activities that ensure your budding scientists learn by doing.
For additional free hands-on activities (along with a Grade 5 FUNomenal leveled reader about the Sun!), check out our blog on the importance of hands-on activities. Here are two other activities you can try at home to celebrate this next chapter in space exploration.
Activity 2: Model Constellations
Research what constellations are visible in the Northern Hemisphere at the end of August. Model the star patterns the astronauts will see with this simple activity.
- Black construction paper
- Cut a circle of construction paper roughly the same size as the lens of the flashlight.
- Use a toothpick to poke holes in the paper to form a constellation seen in the late summer months.
- Place the circle on the lens end of the flashlight. Tape the edges if needed so it doesn’t move.
- Turn the flashlight on. Shine your constellation on the wall in a dim room.
Activity 3: Rocket Ride Scale
How far is a 280,000 mile journey? Model it to find out.
- Several pieces or poster board OR a roll of kraft paper OR a roll of toilet paper
- Crayons or colored markers
- Use the computer to research the stages of the Artemis 1 mission and the distance travelled in each phase
- Set a scale for the miles traveled
- Convert the distance travelled in each phase to your set scale.
- On the poster board or paper, map out the mission. While Artemis travels in a figure 8, for this model, you can represent the phases, from beginning to end, in a straight line
- How long is your finished paper or poster board model? What does this tell you about the SLS and Artemis missions?
Looking for hands-on science lessons and activities for Grades K–5? Explore HMH Into Science, a phenomena-based science solution.
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Senior Director Community Engagement, HMH; Host of HMH Learning Moments: Teachers in America Podcast