NASA plans to launch unmanned Artemis mission to the moon in February 2022

A NASA spokesperson has confirmed that the agency will return to the moon in the first quarter of next year, with the unmanned Artemis I mission slated to launch in February 2022.

The stacking of NASA’s Orion spacecraft on the Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket, was completed this week, according to the agency. The Orion spacecraft has been placed onto the rocket and fastened in position, allowing for testing to begin in preparation for the launch next year of the spacecraft.

“It’s hard to put into words what this milestone means, not only to us here at Exploration Ground Systems, but to all the incredibly talented people who have worked so hard to help us get to this point,” said Mike Bolger, Exploration Ground Systems program manager, in a statement.

“Our team has demonstrated tremendous dedication preparing for the launch of Artemis I. While there is still work to be done to get to launch, with continued integrated tests and Wet Dress Rehearsal, seeing the fully stacked SLS is certainly a reward for all of us.”

Testing is divided into five separate campaigns, with the first covering the interfaces between different spacecraft systems and the second checking specific systems such as the booster thrust control.

The third campaign tests communications between the spacecraft and the ground, the fourth tests the countdown to launch system, and the fifth campaign is a “wet dress rehearsal,” according to NASA. When doing a wet dress rehearsal, fuel is loaded into the rocket in the same manner as it would be for the actual launch, and the rocket is then wheeled out to the launch pad to rehearse the countdown to launch.

When the countdown is complete, the fuel is withdrawn to serve as a practice in case the launch is scrubbed at the last possible moment.

It is anticipated that the Orion spacecraft would be launched from Earth on a course toward the moon, traveling for many days during which time engineers on the ground will be able to inspect systems such as navigation and communication.

Using the moon’s gravity, it will travel into orbit for six days and gather data before returning to Earth. It will fly 62 miles over the surface of the moon before returning to Earth.

A crewed trip to circle the moon, known as Artemis II, followed by a crewed landing on the moon, known as Artemis III, is the goal. Rockets and systems will be tested in preparation for the expedition.

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