On Monday, for its planned debut launch, ground teams began fueling NASA’s colossal next-generation rocketship on an uncrewed, six-week test flight around the moon and back. With this, the space agency has kicked off its Artemis program. It is a successor to Apollo.
Here are 10 points you must know:
1) From the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, a two-stage Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion crew capsule were due for blast-off. It is a two-hour launch window from 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT).
2) The maiden voyage of the SLS-Orion is intended to put the 5.75-million-pound vehicle through its paces and push design limits. It is considered the most powerful and complex rocket in the world.
3) After that the NASA will decide whether it is reliable to carry astronauts or not.
4) The SLS represents the biggest new vertical launch system the U.S. space agency has created.
5) The rocket is filled with several hundred thousand gallons of super-cooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant.
6) If by chance, something goes wrong, NASA has set Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 as backup launch dates.
7) The rocket’s upper stage, about 90 minutes after launch, will thrust Orion out of Earth orbit on course for a 42-day flight.
8) It will bring it within 60 miles of the lunar surface before sailing 40,000 miles (64,374 km) beyond the moon and back to Earth.
9) On October 10, the capsule is expected to splash down in the Pacific ocean.
10) There will be no humans aboard. However, the Orion will be carrying a simulated crew of three (one male and two female mannequins).
The objective of the mission
Testing the durability of Orion’s heat shield during re-entry as it hits our planet’s atmosphere at 39,429 km per hour is the top objective of the mission. It will be 32 times the speed of sound. Much faster than more common re-entries of astronaut capsules returning from low-Earth orbit.