CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s new moon rocket arrived at the launch pad Wednesday ahead of its debut flight in less than two weeks.
The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket emerged from its mammoth hangar late Tuesday night, drawing crowds of Kennedy Space Center workers. It took nearly 10 hours for the rocket to make the four-mile trip to the pad, pulling up at sunrise.
NASA is aiming for an Aug. 29 liftoff for the lunar test flight. The crew capsule will not have any passengers. Only three test dummies with vibration and radiation sensors — mannequins – will remain in the spacecraft.
The capsule will orbit the moon for several weeks before returning to the Pacific for an emergency splashdown. It should take six weeks to complete the flight.
This is NASA’s first Moonshot. NASA is targeting a two-year lunar-orbiting flight, with astronauts, and a landing of a human crew on the moon 2025.. NASA didn’t expect this to happen ten years ago when the shuttle fleet was retired. The cost of the program has increased by billions of dollars over years due to delays.
NASA’s new SLS moon rocket, short for Space Launch System, is 41 feet (12 meters) shorter than the Saturn V rockets used during Apollo a half-century ago. But it’s more powerful, using a core stage and twin strap-on boosters, similar to the ones used for the space shuttles.
“When you look at the rocket, it almost looks retro. It looks like we’re looking back toward the Saturn V,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said this month. “But it’s a totally different, new, highly sophisticated, more sophisticated rocket and spacecraft.”
Twenty-four astronauts flew to the moon during Apollo, with 12 of them landing on it from 1969 through 1972. Artemis is Apollo’s mythological sister and the space agency seeks a larger team with a sustained effort.
“I want to underscore that this is a test flight,” Nelson said. “It’s just the beginning.”
This was the rocket’s third trip to the pad. The rocket was returned to NASA for repair after a countdown test that NASA conducted in April. This resulted in fuel leakage and other problems. In June, the dress rehearsal took place at the pad with better results.
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