NASA eyes late summer launch windows for Artemis I mission

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NASA’s SLS rocket rolls back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 2. NASA said it plans to use the rocket to launch the Artemis I mission in late August or early September. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) — NASA announced Wednesday that it’s expecting a late summer liftoff for the Artemis I mission, the next step in an effort to return humans to the moon in 2025.

Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, said the agency is setting placeholder launch dates for Aug. 29, Sept. 2 and Sept. 5.

The dates won’t be finalized until about a week before launch, pending any repairs to the Space Launch System rocket. Wet dress rehearsals on the SLS rocket launching Artemis I revealed valve, fueling and leaking issues in April, but the most recent testing in June was deemed a success.

“It’s not an agency commitment,” Free said during a news conference updating the public on the Artemis I plans.

The newly announced dates represent a delay from the original June launch window.

The mission plans to fly an un-crewed Orion capsule to the moon, orbit and then return to Earth.

Once there, the spacecraft will enter Distant Retrograde Orbit, a long-distance orbit that will send Orion 40,000 miles past the moon. NASA said this plan will send Orion farther away from Earth than any previous spacecraft built to carry humans.

After being in DRO for several days, Orion will resume a closer orbit of the moon, before using the moon’s gravity and its own engines to head back to Earth.

The Artemis I mission will provide data on how the rocket performs in deep space and will ultimately pave the way for future crewed flights around the moon and to the lunar surface.

Eventually, the Artemis program plans to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972. NASA aims to send the first crewed Artemis mission to the moon in 2025.

That first crewed mission, Artemis III, is expected to put the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface.

The edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region, NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, this image, released on July 12, 2022, reveals previously obscured areas of star birth. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

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