The uncrewed moon mission Artemis 1, the first stage in America’s ambition to return humans to the Moon later this decade, will now launch in February 2022, according to NASA. The space agency had hoped to fly the test trip by the end of this year, with astronauts on board Artemis 3 by 2024, but the timeframe has slipped.
It reached a critical milestone on Wednesday when it loaded the Orion crew capsule atop its Space Launch System megarocket, which now stands 322 feet (98 meters) tall inside NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
Officials informed reporters on a conference call that it will be wheeled out to the launchpad for a final test known as the “wet dress rehearsal” in January, with the first window for launch opening in February.
“The February launch period opens on the 12th and our last opportunity in February is on the 27th,” stated Mike Sarafin, mission manager for the Artemis 1 mission.
The following windows are in March and April. These probable launch times are determined by orbital mechanics and the Earth’s relative location to its natural satellite.
The mission will last between four and six weeks. It will also launch a number of CubeSats, or miniature satellites, to conduct experiments and technology demos. Although likely to be postponed, Artemis 2 is set to launch in 2023 and Artemis 3 in 2024, marking humanity’s first trip to the Moon since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
According to NASA, the moonwalkers will include the first woman and person of color to travel to the moon.
The space agency wants to build a long-term presence on the Moon and then utilize what it learns to plan a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.
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