NASA stated on Thursday that the forthcoming Artemis I mission, which intends to return humanity’s gaze to the moon by sending a spacecraft into lunar orbit, might launch in late May or early June. The previously hoped-for April launch date looks to be gone with the revised plan.
During a briefing, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, Tom Whitmeyer, stated, “April is not a possibility.” “We’re currently assessing the month of May’s finish.” However, the agency pointed out that critical testing of the mission’s SLS rocket, which took place at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), is now complete.
Though the crew is currently evaluating data from the last VAB test, it expects Artemis I — which comprises both the SLS rocket and an Orion spacecraft module — to be brought out to the pad soon for what’s known as the “wet dress rehearsal,” which includes things like fueling the SLS. It’ll take around 11 hours to get there.
NASA Exploration Ground Systems program manager Mike Bolger of Kennedy Space Center said the crew aims for a March 17 launch at 3 p.m. PT (6 p.m. ET). “It’ll be quite a spectacle,” Bolger said, stressing that the vehicle carrying Artemis I will be 400 feet (122 meters) tall and weigh more than 17 million pounds.
Because “the wet dress rehearsal is a complex undertaking,” Bolger added, we’ll likely have a lot better sense of a specific launch date once the wet dress rehearsal is over. Weather is another factor the crew considers, emphasizing the need for a daylight launch.
Although it is unmanned, Artemis I is set to be the first in a succession of steps that will return NASA to the lunar surface. Its primary purpose is to plot out an optimum trajectory for future missions including humans. Whitmeyer added, “We’re thrilled to be part of an integrated Artemis program that will see the first person of color and the first woman on the lunar surface.”
“I believe that is a tremendous honor for all of us.”