NASA targets November 14 for the inaugural launch of its rocket Space Launch System (SLS) generation from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The rocket will propel an uncrewed Orion spacecraft toward the moon, where it will come within 62 miles of the lunar surface before returning to Earth for a splashdown landing on December 9.
The mission, Artemis I, is a test for the Artemis II mission that will take the same route, but with astronauts on board. After that, Artemis III will put the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface. Scheduled for no earlier than 2025, Artemis III will also mark the first manned lunar landing since the last Apollo mission in 1972.
Airbus Space, which built part of the Orion spacecraft, shared a stunning aerial image on Monday showing the SLS rocket on the launch pad ahead of next week’s maiden flight.
Guess who’s back… back again! 😉#PleiadesNeo 🛰 spotted @NASA_SLS 🚀 back on the launch pad!
With @NASA_Orion onboard, last preparations are ongoing before launch on 14th November. 📅#OrionESM #Artemis pic.twitter.com/SSgcg6hKe9
— Airbus Space (@AirbusSpace) November 7, 2022
The rocket looks small in the photo, although it is placed on its base and you will quickly appreciate the total height of 98 meters of this powerful space vehicle.
And with 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch – that’s 13% more power than the space shuttle and 15% more than the Saturn V rocket that powered the Apollo missions – liftoff promises to be a spectacular sight, one that will draw thousands of people to the Florida Space Coast, with many more watching online.
The SLS rocket arrived at the launch pad on Friday after spending all of October inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) some four miles away. Before that, it had been on the launch pad for several launches that were cut short by technical issues. The decision to move the SLS to the VAB was prompted by the approach of Hurricane Ian towards the end of September. While inside the VAB, NASA engineers were able to perform work to correct the above problems and prepare the rocket for next week’s launch.
The mission, when finally launched, will usher in a new era of space exploration that could eventually see a permanent lunar base established for human habitation, with the first manned missions to Mars also part of the plan.