Story at a glance
- The space agency on Friday announced it secured its Orion spacecraft on top of its Space Launch System rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
- NASA engineers are set to conduct a series of safety tests on the spacecraft and are aiming to launch in February if all goes well.
- The launch is part of the broader Artemis mission to once again put humans on the surface of the moon.
NASA is aiming to launch an uncrewed test flight around the moon in February 2022 as part of its ambitious mission to once again land humans on the surface of Earth’s natural satellite in the coming years.
The space agency on Friday announced it secured its Orion spacecraft on top of its Space Launch System rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and is in the final phase of preparations for the upcoming flight known as Artemis I. Together, the capsule and rocket stand 322 feet tall.
NASA engineers are set to conduct a series of safety tests on the spacecraft, including a rehearsal where the SLS rocket will be loaded with propellant and a launch countdown will be simulated. If the January test is successful, NASA said it will set a firm date for the launch in February.
During the mission expected to last for several weeks, Orion will orbit the Moon and splash down to Earth in the Pacific Ocean.
“The mission, known as Artemis I, will pave the way for a future flight test with crew before NASA establishes a regular cadence of more complex missions with astronauts on and around the Moon under Artemis,” NASA said in a release.
The Artemis I mission was initially set to launch in November of this year but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other snags.
Following Artemis I, Artemis II will include a crewed orbit of the Moon and Artemis III will land humans on the surface of the Moon. NASA initially set a goal of doing so by 2024, but many expect that date to be pushed back.
If Artemis III is successful, it’ll be the first time humans step foot on the lunar surface since 1972.
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