On Monday, NASA plans to launch the Artemis I mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch marks the first step of the Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon and eventually land us on Mars.
Artemis I will not carry astronauts and will not land on the moon. However, the mission represents a crucial piece of NASA’s plans as the agency seeks to set foot on our closest celestial neighbor for the first time in fifty years. NASA plans to make the first moon landing of this century in 2025. The agency has already announced that it will be working with SpaceX to build the $2.9 billion lunar lander.
The Artemis program is not without its critics. NASA’s Inspector General, the agency’s internal auditor, has questioned the sustainability of the program. The Inspector General stated that more than $40 billion has already been spent on the program, and projected NASA would spend $93 billion on Artemis through 2025, reports CNBC.
Artemis I will mark NASA’s first use of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The SLS rocket stands 322 feet tall and improves on the technology used in NASA’s Space Shuttle and Apollo programs.
The SLS weighs 5.7 million pounds and produces up to 8.8 million pounds of thrust – 15% more than the Saturn V rockets used to send humans to the moon during the Apollo program of the 1960s and 70s.
Artemis I will travel for roughly 40 days — getting as close as 60 miles from the moon — before landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.
NASA plans to launch on Monday, August 29th. The rocket will have a two-hour launch window starting at 8:33 a.m. ET, meaning it could take off anytime between 8:33 a.m. ET and 10:33 a.m. ET if there are no delays. NASA has reported all systems are go, assuming weather or other last-minute issues don’t impede the launch.