NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket is off the launch pad.
The Artemis stack 1 — one Space Launch System (SLS) topped with an Orion crew capsule – departed Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 4:12 a.m. EDT (0812 GMT) on Saturday, July 2.
The duo made it to KSC’s Cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) around 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT), completing the 6.4-kilometer hike to the top of the massive crawler vehicle 2 in just over 10 hours, agency officials said in a blog post. (opens in a new tab).
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission explained in photos
Artemis 1 recently completed its “wet rehearsal,” a crucial series of tests and simulations designed to help determine a vehicle’s readiness for flight. This wet dress success was hard earned; the Artemis 1 team first attempted to make the leap in early April but were thwarted by several technical issues, including a blocked valve. Team members ended up bringing the pile back to VAB for repair on April 25, then sent it to the pad for another attempt earlier this month.
The last attempt did not go perfectly – a hydrogen leak was discovered during refueling operations – but NASA officials considered good enough to begin preparing Artemis 1 for liftoff.
Artemis 1 will send an unmanned Orion on a journey of about a month around the moon. The mission team is apparently looking at late August or early September for liftoff, but an official target date won’t be set until SLS and Orion have been fully inspected at VAB.
As its name suggests, Artemis 1 is NASA’s first mission Artemis programwhich aims to establish a sustainable human presence on and around the Moon by the end of the 2020s. If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will send a crew Orion around the moon in 2024, and Artemis 3 will drop off astronauts near the lunar south pole about two years later.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. EDT on June 30 with the new estimated restoration start time of 8 p.m. EDT. Nasa advanced four hour restoration (opens in a new tab) due to expected bad weather overnight. The story was updated again at 7:20 p.m. EDT on June 30 with the most recent estimated flashback time at 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 1. at the VAB,” NASA officials said via Twitter (opens in a new tab). This story was updated a third time at 11:15 a.m. EDT on July 1 with the new estimated restoration start time of 11 p.m. EDT. NASA moved the restoration later due to weather, according to NASA officials (opens in a new tab). The story was last updated at 4:55 p.m. EDT on July 2 with news that Artemis 1 had reached the VAB.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).