August 29, 2022
The total distance to be traveled by the mega-spaceship—as it circles the moon and returns to earth on October 10—will be 1.3 million miles.
If the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket successfully launches, shoots its Orion spaceship around the moon, and the spaceship survives the fiery plummet at 24,500 mph back through Earth’s atmosphere, NASA could be on track to put boots on the lunar surface in 2025—the first human moon landing since 1972.
The rocket is sitting on Launchpad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, after being rolled out last week. Space agency officials say liftoff is scheduled for Monday, August 29, during a two-hour window that opens at 8:33 a.m. (EDT).
Two backup windows are also available on September 2 and September 5, if any 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 view the inaugural launch.
The bright new SLS rocket stands taller than the Statue of Liberty, at 23 stories, with the spaceship secured up top. Four car-sized engines and two rocket boosters should give it enough thrust to push through the thickest parts of the atmosphere,
Scientists will assess how future astronauts will experience the stresses of space by measuring how much cosmic radiation mannequins 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 main goal with Artemis I is to test every function of the launch and spaceflight system—including Orion’s communication and navigation systems and its heat shield, which must withstand a fiery plummet through Earth’s atmosphere at temperatures reaching 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit—before risking human lives in future missions.
If the uncrewed Orion spaceship makes it around the moon and back without a hitch, the Artemis II mission will carry astronauts on a similar roundabout. The Artemis III mission aims to put humans on the moon in 2025.
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