Yesterday, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft atop it reached the historic Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Together they are the Artemis I mission, the maiden voyage for NASA’s new heavy launcher– and the spacecraft that, in a few years, will take astronauts back to the Moon.
"Around 7:30 a.m. EDT the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrived atop Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a nearly 10-hour journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building," the Artemis team wrote in a blog post.
The space agency’s team is working to configure the system at the launch pad. There have been extensive tests during the wet rehearsal phase over the last few months. There have also been a few setbacks in the preparation, such as leaks and even lightning, but everything seems ready now. The launch window opens on August 29 at 8:33 a.m. ET for two hours. If weather or other factors don’t permit a launch, there are launch windows on September 2 and September 5.
If the first launch window is a go, the uncrewed spacecraft will travel in space for 42 days, including six around the Moon. This is a stepping stone mission, which will allow the space agency to put important technologies to the test for Artemis II, currently scheduled to launch in May 2024. That would be the first crewed mission to go to lunar orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.
If the current schedule is kept, then Artemis III is set to make history in late 2025 with the first woman and the first person of color landing on the Moon.