NASA is counting down to its uncrewed test flight Artemis 1, which sets the stage for humanity’s return to the moon.
“We’re going to launch, which is absolutely excellent,” Robert Cabana, NASA’s associate administrator, told reporters at a Monday night news conference. “This day took a long time to come.”
If the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launches successfully, fires its Orion spacecraft around the moon, and the spacecraft survives the fiery fall back into Earth’s atmosphere, NASA could be on its way to putting boots on the surface. lunar landing in 2025 – the first human moon landing since 1972. Eventually, NASA plans to build a permanent base on the moon and explore resources there, before sending astronauts to Mars.
The rocket is sitting on Launchpad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center after being launched last week. Space agency officials say liftoff is scheduled for Monday, August 29, during a two-hour window that opens at 8:33 am ET.
Watch the launch live on the NASA broadcast below, starting as technicians begin filling the rocket with fuel at midnight. NASA plans to continue transmitting until about 5:30 pm, when the Orion spacecraft is scheduled to transmit its first images of Earth.
Two backup windows are also available on September 2nd and 5th if last-minute technical issues or weather delays arise. More than 100,000 visitors are expected to gather near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida to see the inaugural launch.
In an attempt to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972, NASA spent 17 years and about $50 billion developing the SLS rocket and its Orion spacecraft, according to The Planetary Society.
The shiny new SLS rocket is taller than the Statue of Liberty at 23 stories, with the spacecraft attached to the top. Four car-sized engines and two rocket boosters should give enough thrust to get through the thickest parts of the atmosphere. If all goes well, Orion will cover a total distance of approximately 1.3 million miles in 42 days. It will reach 60 miles above the lunar surface, allowing lunar gravity to throw it 40,000 miles beyond the moon before returning to Earth for a dip in the Pacific Ocean in October.
Scientists will assess how future astronauts will experience space stress by measuring how much cosmic radiation the dummies aboard the Orion capsule endured during the test flight. The mission will also launch several CubeSats, or miniature satellites, with science missions.
However, NASA’s primary goal with Artemis I is to test all the functions of the launch and spaceflight system – including Orion’s communication and navigation systems and its heat shield, which must withstand a fire drop into Orion’s atmosphere. Earth at 25,000 miles per hour in temperatures as high as 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit — before risking human lives on future missions.
If the unmanned Orion spacecraft manages to circle the moon and return without a hitch, the Artemis II mission will take the astronauts on a similar roundabout. The Artemis III mission aims to put humans on the Moon in 2025.
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