As part of NASA’s Artemis program, the Orion spacecraft has been stacked atop the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket. The fully assembled moon rocket now stands at 322 feet tall, and teams will begin conducting a series of tests ahead of the targeted February launch.
The aim of the Artemis I mission is to “pave the way for a future flight test with crew before NASA establishes a regular cadence of more complex missions with astronauts on and around the moon,” the space agency said.
“The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II,” it added.
During the Artemis I flight, the spacecraft will travel 280,000 miles from Earth over the course of about three weeks, staying in space longer than any manned ship has done without docking to a space station.
“This is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager at the NASA Headquarters in Washington.