NASA heads back to the Moon
NASA's Space Launch System rocket is set to lift off on an uncrewed journey to the Moon this morning, Axios' Miriam Kramer reports.
Why it matters: The Artemis I mission will mark the first launch of the SLS and represents a major milestone for NASA as the space agency works to send people back to the lunar surface for the first time since the 1970s.
- If the launch is successful, it could prove that NASA is still on the cutting edge of the technology needed for human space exploration, even as companies such as SpaceX nip at its heels.
- Doors opened at 5:15am for a launch watch party at Space Center Houston.
- The two-hour launch window opens at 7:33am CDT.
Catch up quick: The SLS is expected to send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a journey around the Moon and back to Earth.
- The 42-day mission will be a test of the integrated systems before NASA puts people onboard and eventually uses the rocket and capsule to deliver people to the lunar surface in 2025.
- If this launch fails, experts say it will imperil NASA's entire Artemis program because a failing, overbudget program is far less likely to garner political support.
- "This has to work," Casey Dreier of the Planetary Society tells Axios.
The big picture: The SLS was first ordered by Congress in 2010 and built in much the same way as the Apollo program's Saturn V.
- Unlike the Apollo program, NASA hopes that Artemis will be sustainable and long-lived — establishing a major presence on the Moon and a small space station in orbit that can act as a jumping off point down to the surface.
- Artemis II in 2025 is expected to bring the first woman and person of color to the Moon.
- Yes, but: As this launch is happening, SpaceX is working to get its Starship vehicle ready to fly to orbit at some point this year, challenging more traditional aerospace companies.
With a big, new rocket like this, anything can happen, including unforeseen delays.
- Though NASA is confident in its targeted launch time, Florida weather and technical issues could crop up at any time.
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