NASA is aiming to put the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024, and while the target date is looking increasingly tight, the space agency is nevertheless keen to generate some early buzz around the upcoming endeavor.
The lunar landing will be the third mission in NASA’s Artemis program, which has long-term goals of establishing a permanent base on the moon and performing crewed missions to Mars.
The uncrewed Artemis 1 mission, currently set for March 2022, will perform a flyby of the moon before returning to Earth. Artemis 2 will send a crew on a flyby of the moon, while Artemis 3 will involve the highly anticipated lunar landing.
NASA this week posted a video showing how it expects the early stages of the Artemis 1 mission to play out when its almighty Space Launch System (SLS) rocket blasts off from the Kennedy Space Center next year. It’s a wonderfully detailed animation that shows many of the vital stages of the mission, and you can watch it below.
— NASA_SLS (@NASA_SLS) May 17, 2021
The SLS rocket is part of a setup that includes the Orion spacecraft, the Lunar Gateway space station, and the human landing system that will support NASA’s future space exploration initiatives.
The SLS has a height of 98.1 meters (322 feet), and at launch the core booster, together with its two outboard boosters, will produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust, “equivalent to more than 160,000 Corvette engines,” NASA says. That makes it 13% more powerful than the space shuttle and 15% more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket, the launch vehicle used for astronaut missions to the moon 50 or so years ago.
The Orion spacecraft, which will be able to carry six astronauts on a mission lasting up to 21 days, has recently been put through a range of demanding tests, including one that involved drops into a giant tank of water to ensure it can handle splashdowns in the ocean upon return to Earth. The SLS core stage booster, meanwhile, recently experienced a lengthy barge trip from NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where it underwent testing, to the Kennedy Space Center for Artemis 1 launch preparations.