How Artemis 1 will travel around the moon and back

A new spacecraft designed to safely transport astronauts on deep-space missions is going on a six-week, uncrewed journey around the moon and back to Earth. After a first attempt was scrubbed on Aug. 29 due to engine problems, NASA is set for a second try on Sept. 3, with the launch window opening at 2:17 p.m. EDT.

As part of its Artemis mission, the Orion spacecraft will reach lunar orbit thanks to the Space Launch System, or SLS, a 32-story rocket that is considered the most powerful ever built. The pair will blast off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida before Orion eventually detaches from the rocket to begin its solo journey toward the moon, traveling further than any prior spacecraft designed for humans.

In addition to inaugurating a new era of lunar missions, researchers involved with the Artemis program have an eye on future exploration that involves humans traveling further into the unforgiving, high-radiation terrain of space than ever before.

“It’s a future where NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon and, on these increasingly complex missions, astronauts will live and work in deep space, and will develop the science and technology to send the first humans to Mars,” Nelson said in an Aug. 3 press briefing.

Animation by Megan McGrew, Isabella Isaacs-Thomas, Molly Finnegan and Julia Griffin.

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