The countdown is on. Artemis I, NASA’s ambitious first mission back to the Moon, will launch between August 29 and September 5. The uncrewed mission is a crucial stepping stone for future missions, which will first take humans back around the Moon and then to the surface of our natural satellite.
The dates were announced by NASA in a teleconference, which discussed the possible launch windows and subsequent return of the Orion Capsule. Artemis I will be the maiden launch of the Space Launch System, or SLS, NASA's brand-new super-heavy lift launch vehicle, which can bring astronauts to the Moon and maybe one day, even Mars.
During the period for the launch, NASA has selected three viable launch windows. On August 29, the rocket could launch between 8:33 a.m. and 10:33 a.m. ET. If it launches then, NASA estimate that the whole mission could return to Earth on October 10, lasting 42 days.
If the launch was to happen on September 2, it could launch from 12:48 p.m. ET or at any time in the following two hours. The return would be 40 days later on October 11. On September 5, the launch window is shorter, opening at 5:12 p.m. ET for 90 minutes, but it would result in a 43-day mission, with a return on October 17.
The Orion capsule of Artemis I will spend six days of the mission in orbit around the Moon. It will test important technology, paving the way for Artemis II, the first crewed mission in lunar orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.
Artemis II will last 10 days and perform a lunar flyby before returning to Earth. The current plan is for a launch in May 2024. Artemis III, with the first woman and first person of color to land on the Moon, is still expected for 2025 if spacesuits and landers will be ready by then.