NASA said Friday it is now targeting February 2022 for the Artemis 1 unmanned lunar mission, the first step in the U.S. plan to return humans to the moon later this decade. The space agency had initially wanted to launch the test flight by the end of this year, with astronauts on the ground by 2024 on Artemis 3, but the schedule has moved back.
It took a major milestone on Wednesday when it stacked the Orion crew’s capsule on top of its space launch system mega-rocket, which now stands 322 feet (98 meters) high inside the building of assembly of vehicles from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
After further testing, it will be routed to the launch pad for a final test known as a “wet dress rehearsal” in January, with the first launch window opening in February, officials told reporters at the event. ‘a call.
“The February launch window opens on the 12th and our last opportunity in February is on the 27th,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis 1 chef de mission.
The next windows are in March and then in April.
These potential launch periods depend on the orbital mechanics and the relative position of the Earth in relation to its natural satellite.
The duration of the mission should be four to six weeks.
It will also deploy a number of small satellites, called CubeSats, to perform technology experiments and demonstrations.
While likely to be pushed back, Artemis 2 is technically slated for 2023 and Artemis 3 for 2024, humanity’s return to the moon for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
NASA says the moonwalkers will include the first woman and the first person of color to make the trip.
The space agency seeks to establish a lasting presence on the Moon and use the lessons learned to plan a crewed trip to Mars in the 2030s.