Artemis

Look: NASA’s SLS mega-rocket is one step closer to the Moon

ESA

NASA/JPL-Caltech

For decades, the Moon has been left somewhat neglected with NASA and other space agencies focusing on Mars and beyond.

NASA

That’s starting to change. NASA plans on launching the uncrewed lunar mission Artemis I in February 2022. It is the first in a series of complex missions — in 2024, a later Artemis mission will bring people back to the Moon.

The Space Launch System is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built. It’s intended to replace the Space Shuttle as the agency’s primary deep-space vehicle.

NASA

The first SLS mission to the Moon came one step closer to reality on October 20, 2021 when the entire rocket was fully stacked at Kennedy Space Center.

NASA_SLS

ESA

For the first time, the Orion spacecraft is attached to the rocket. Eventually, it will launch atop the SLS rocket and be used for deep-space missions.

Now that it’s assembled, the mega Moon rocket can undergo a final round of tests to ensure that its different components can communicate with each other and with ground control.

NASA

NASA

For its inaugural mission, Artemis 1, the SLS will carry 10 CubeSats and the Orion spacecraft — but no crew — into orbit around the Moon.

While the mission is uncrewed, Orion won’t be empty for the trip.

NASA/Rad Sinyak

The crew capsule will carry two mannequins designed to test the effects of acceleration and radiation inside Orion.

NASA

That’s vital to make sure Artemis II can safely carry its crew to the far side of the Moon and back.

The stacked SLS is an impressive sight on its own, but what’s more important is what it means for the future of space travel.

NASA/MSFC

SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA. It has enough power to carry a crewed Orion spacecraft and the cargo needed for a mission with a single launch.

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That will let the astronauts of Artemis III explore more of the Moon than was ever possible before, with the help of a rover delivered before the mission.

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Launching as early as 2024, Artemis III will mark the first time humans have set foot on the Moon since 1972. The first woman and first person of color on the Moon will be part of the mission.

NASA

Artemis is intended to establish a permanent Moon base, giving astronauts a foothold for lunar exploration and for missions headed even further into space.

The knowledge gained with Artemis will be used for an even bolder endeavor — sending humans on a three-year trip to Mars in the 2030s.

NASA/JPL-Caltech