NASA sends uncrewed Artemis I to the moon as the first step toward a base there and eventually a crewed mission to Mars
Today, the moon.
At least that’s NASA’s plan as the space agency prepares to send astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.
The space agency took a giant leap closer with the launch of the uncrewed, Artemis I mission for a trip to the moon. The most powerful rocket in NASA’s history — the Space Launch System — blasted off from Pad 39B at 1:47 a.m. EST Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the Orion capsule on top of it.
The launch was a sweet victory after two previous launches were scrubbed — first on Aug. 29 because of a faulty temperature sensor, then again on Sept. 4 because of a liquid hydrogen leak. Repairs were made, and the Space Launch System impressed NASA officials and fans of space missions as Wednesday’s launch set the stage for the big prize: bringing astronauts back on the moon for the first time in more than 50 years.
NASA plans to do that in 2025 when Artemis III puts the first woman and the first person of color on the moon.
And NASA has said that getting back to the moon is an important step to eventually sending the first astronauts to Mars.
During the Artemis I mission, the Orion capsule will travel approximately 40,000 miles to the moon and return to Earth over 25.5 days.
“It’s taken a lot to get here, but Orion is now on its way to the moon,” said Jim Free, NASA deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This successful launch means NASA and our partners are on a path to explore farther in space than ever before for the benefit of humanity.”
Orion is scheduled to fly by the moon on Nov. 21. It will be in a highly stable orbit thousands of miles above the lunar surface.
The first crewed mission, Artemis III, will bring astronauts back to the moon, where NASA says the missions will be more science-intensive than the days of Apollo.
NASA plans to build an Artemis Base Camp on the surface and Gateway, a spaceship that NASA plans to be in lunar orbit for more than a decade. The Orion capsule will bring astronauts to Gateway, and they will take a lander from there to the lunar surface. In addition, astronauts will work and live on Gateway.
Plans also call for them to live and work on the moon’s surface at the Artemis Base Camp. NASA says the camp will feature a lunar cabin, mobile home and rover.
For more information, see www.nasa.gov/artemis.