NASA is aiming to launch its uncrewed lunar mission Artemis 1 in February next year, the space agency said Friday, the first step in America’s plan to return humans to the Moon.
The agency had initially hoped to launch the test flight by the end of this year, with astronauts set to walk on the Moon by 2024.
It achieved a major milestone Wednesday when it stacked the Orion crew capsule atop its Space Launch System megarocket, which now stands 322 feet (98 meters) tall inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
After further tests, it will be wheeled out to the launchpad for a “wet dress rehearsal” in January, with the first window for launch opening in February, officials told reporters on a call.
“The February launch period opens on the 12th and our last opportunity in February is on the 27th,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis 1 mission manager. The next windows are in March and April.
These potential launch periods are dependent on orbital mechanics and the relative position of the Earth with respect to the Moon. The mission duration is expected to be four to six weeks.
NASA will also deploy small satellites, known as CubeSats, to perform experiments and technology demonstrations.
Artemis 2 is then scheduled for 2023 and Artemis 3 for the following year, when humans will walk on the Moon for the first time since 1972.—APP