Humanity’s mission back to the Moon is about to see its first major test in just a few weeks. NASA has announced that Artemis I, the uncrewed test mission of its new rocket and capsule, will roll out to the launch pad on August 18 for the expected launch on August 29.
"We are in the final stretch," Artemis I launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said during a press conference on Wednesday confirming the launch window for Artemis I.
This will be the maiden launch for the massive Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's brand new super-heavy lift launch vehicle, which can bring astronauts to the Moon and maybe one day, even Mars. If the launch goes according to plan, the Orion capsule will travel to deep space and spend several days around the Moon.
The launch window opens on August 29 between 8:33 am and 10:33 am ET. If the August 29 launch window can't work due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances, September 2 and September 5 are alternative dates for the launch.
If August 29 goes ahead, NASA estimates that the uncrewed spacecraft could return to Earth on October 10, with the mission lasting 42 days. The whole mission will test important technologies that will be crucial for Artemis II, the first crewed mission to go to lunar orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.
Artemis III is set to make history with the first woman and the first person of color to put feet on the Moon. Artemis II and Artemis III are currently scheduled for May 2024 and late 2025 respectively.