NASA readies launch of crucial final test before astronauts return to the Moon

NASA is preparing to launch a crucial final test of its Artemis spacecraft – paving the way for a manned mission to orbit the Moon in 2024.

A little after 6.00 on Wednesday morning – November 16 – Artemis 1, said to be the most powerful rocket ship ever built, will lift off on a remote-controlled journey to the moon and back.

If the $4.1bn Space Launch System (SLS) does manage to lift off, it’ll be third time lucky.

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The massive spacecraft was assembled in October 2021, and after a series of technical delays finally made it to the launchpad in August 2022.

An initial launch attempt had to be cancelled due to a technical fault, a planned launch in late September was scrubbed due to the threat of Tropical Storm Ian, while the imminent arrival of Hurricane Nicole ruled out any other attempts until now.

The entire Artemis programme is a full five years behind schedule and billions over budget. NASA is thought to have expended more than $40 billion on the project – much of that figure is accounted for by development of the gigantic SLS launch vehicle and Orion spacecraft.

Tomorrow’s test flight – Artemis I is the first of three missions on the schedule.

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Artemis II is slated to take four astronauts around the Moon in 2024 and around a year later Artemis III is expected to land two astronauts – at leat one of whom will be a woman – on the lunar surface.

It will be the first time a human being has set foot on the Moon since Eugene Cernan climbed back into the Apollo 17 lander in December 1972.

His last words as he left the moon were that he hoped it would be “not too long into the future” that astronauts were there again.

Fifty years later, we’re still waiting.

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NASA administrator, Bill Nelson said earlier this year: “We’re going back to the moon after 50 years, to stay, to learn, to work, to create, to develop new technologies and new systems and new spacecraft in order to go to Mars”.

He told Newsweek: “This is a tremendous turn of history.”

And, depending on the weather, it all starts tomorrow.


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