NASA is sending its colossal Space Launch System into space for the first time on 29 August for the Artemis I mission around the moon. Watch the launch coverage here
SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built. It has faced numerous delays since the project began in 2011, but it has finally rolled out to the launch pad and is ready for liftoff. Its mission, called Artemis I, will last 42 days and is the beginning of NASA’s programme to send humans back to the surface of the moon.
Stacked atop the SLS rocket is the Orion capsule, which will separate from the core of the rocket itself about 8 minutes and 30 seconds after launch and continue onward to orbit the moon. The capsule is designed to carry crew, but for this first test flight it will carry only mannequins designed to measure the forces and radiation that crew members would experience during the mission.
When is the launch?
The Artemis I launch is scheduled for 29 August between 8.33am and 10.33am EDT (between 1.33pm and 3.33pm BST). A livestream of the launch will be available on this page above. If any issues delay the mission, there are backup launch dates on 2 and 5 September.
If all goes well with Artemis I, the Artemis II mission planned for 2024 will be SLS and Orion’s first crewed flight. That flight is planned to last only about 10 days, taking a crew of four astronauts on a flight past the moon but not landing. Artemis III, scheduled for 2025, is planned to be NASA’s return to the moon, the first crewed lunar landing since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. After that, the Artemis programme is expected to continue with the delivery of a space station called the Lunar Gateway into orbit around the moon.
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