Pouso de astronautas na Lua com a missão Artemis 3 da NASA é improvável antes de 2027, conclui o relatório do GAO

Indústria Espacial

Os Estados Unidos podem ter que esperar mais alguns anos para retornar os astronautas à Lua.

A missão Artemis 3, que agora está programada para voar em dezembro de 2025, pode ter que esperar até pelo menos 2027.

O esforço da NASA para devolver humanos à Lua pela primeira vez desde o programa Apollo com a missão Artemis 3 provavelmente será adiado porque está ameaçado por “múltiplos desafios” e um cronograma ambicioso, anunciou o Gabinete de Responsabilidade do Governo dos EUA na quinta-feira (30 de novembro). ).

Com base em entrevistas com a NASA e funcionários da indústria e na revisão da documentação, o GAO informou que encontrou uma quantidade significativa de trabalho técnico pendente no sistema de pouso humano ou HLS, uma variante da nave estelar da SpaceX e do modo de transporte da NASA para a superfície da lua. Também resta um trabalho de design crucial para incorporar tanques maiores de oxigênio nos trajes espaciais que seriam usados pelos astronautas na Lua, afirmou o relatório.

O HLS esgotará seu reservatório de propelente ao entrar em órbita, por isso precisará ser reabastecido antes de ir para a lua. De acordo com o plano atual, um esforço de várias etapas colocaria primeiro um depósito de combustível em órbita (uma nave Starship custumizada para armazenar combustível), seguido por várias Starships-tanque para transferir metano e oxigênio líquido para esse depósito, para então, lançar uma Starship Lunar para e reabaster neste depósito e assim, seguir para a lua.

Com sede no Marshall Space Flight Center, no Alabama, o programa HLS ainda está oficialmente trabalhando para um lançamento em dezembro de 2025 e com o objetivo de concluir seu desenvolvimento em um total de 79 meses – cerca de um ano antes da média dos principais projetos da NASA, a maioria dos quais, não envolvem voos espaciais humanos. Mas o GAO diz que esse cronograma é improvável, uma vez que ainda há trabalho técnico complexo, incluindo descobrir como transferir o propelente em órbita para o qual “a SpaceX fez progressos limitados no amadurecimento dessas tecnologias”.

O programa HLS e a SpaceX atrasaram oito dos 13 marcos principais em seis meses a um ano, fazendo com que dois dos marcos adiados ocorressem agora em 2025, o mesmo ano do lançamento da Artemis 3 atualmente programado. Se o desenvolvimento do módulo de pouso HLS levar em média tanto tempo quanto outros grandes projetos da NASA, a missão Artemis 3 ocorreria no início de 2027, afirmou o relatório.

Para que esse cronograma de lançamento seja cumprido, uma segunda preocupação urgente relacionada a uma mudança no design dos trajes espaciais que estão sendo desenvolvidos pela Axiom Space deve ser resolvida. No início deste ano, a empresa revelou um protótipo do traje, que alugaria à NASA para as missões de pouso lunar Artemis. Até agora, a Axiom completou dois marcos no trabalho relacionado ao desenvolvimento dos trajes espaciais, mas eles ainda estão nas fases iniciais de desenvolvimento, disse o último relatório do GAO.

Grande parte do trabalho pendente parece estar relacionado ao design do traje. A NASA exige que a Axiom desenvolva um traje que possa fornecer 60 minutos de suporte vital de emergência, mas “o projeto original da NASA não fornecia a quantidade mínima de suporte vital de emergência necessário para a missão Artemis 3”, de acordo com o relatório.

Portanto, a Axiom agora planeja reorganizar os componentes do traje espacial de modo que possa acomodar tanques de oxigênio maiores, mas se isso não for possível, será necessário alterar o design atual, o que levaria mais tempo.

Se a NASA adiar oficialmente a data de lançamento do Artemis 3 para 2027, acabaria sendo um ano antes de sua meta original de 2028. A administração Trump em 2019 havia definido um cronograma para 2024, o qual a NASA acabou adiando para a estimativa de lançamento atual, em dezembro de 2025.

Mas até a NASA considerou a data de 2025 otimista; em junho de 2023, a liderança da agência apontou que os atrasos no desenvolvimento do HLS/Starship tornavam improvável que a Artemis 3 fosse capaz de cumprir esse cronograma.

Que de fato o HLS escolhido pela NASA, a Starship Lunar da SpaceX para pousar humanos na lua, é um sitema extremamente complexo, isto é indiscutível. O veículo é gigantesco e em razão de sua reutilização, precisa ser reabastecido em orbita para seguir viagem. Isto é bem diferente do que foi feito no fim da década de 1960 com Saturno V da era Apollo, onde todo o conjunto do foguete era descartado, tornando cada viagem à lua um custo financeiro enorme.

Se hoje o orçamento para voltar à lua é irrisório se comparado com da era Apollo, então, reutilização é o caminho para baratear as missões e alcançar a sustentabilidade financeira. O outro lado da moeda é que novas tecnologias devem ser desenvolvidas e isto leva tempo, a SpaceX está perseguindo este propósito com o programa Starship, que evidentemente está progredindo muito mais rápido do que o foguete SLS da NASA, porém, como mensionando, a complexidade do sistema que a SpaceX está construindo é algo nunca antes realizado na indústria espacial, um desafio sem precedentes.

Em uma última análise, voltar à lua com a Artemis III em 2027 pode até ser uma realidade em razão do complexo HLS escolhido pela NASA, e não estou nem falando aqui dos trajes espaciais. No entato, essa equação pode mudar drásticamente com a variável China que tem a mesma pretenção americana, e deseja pousar taikonautas na lua justamente em 2027 com missões robóticas, e tripuladas antes de 2030 (recentemente as missões para alua foram aprovadas pelo governo Chinês), ou seja, quando os chineses começarem a seguir com suas missões lunares, a competição irá fazer as coisas acontecerem muito mais rápido aqui pelo ocidente, que digam as missões Apollo. Que a corrida para a lua, comece.

Observação: Dias antes do anuncio do Gabinete de Responsabilidade do Governo dos EUA (GAO), fizemos uma live bem interessante, colocando exatamente este ponto observado pela agência.


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