CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – NASA’s new moon rocket arrived at the launch pad on Wednesday for its debut flight in less than two weeks.
The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket emerged from its giant hangar late Tuesday, drawing crowds of Kennedy Space Center workers, many of whom were not yet born when NASA sent astronauts to the moon. half a century ago. It took nearly 10 hours for the rocket to make the four-mile journey to the trail and lift off at dawn.
NASA is aiming for an August 29 launch for the test flight on the moon. No one will be in the crew pod on top of the rocket, just three mannequins teeming with sensors to measure radiation and vibration.
The capsule will fly around the moon in distant orbit for a few weeks before returning for a landing in the Pacific Ocean. The entire flight should take six weeks.
The flight is the first moonshot in NASA’s Artemis program. The space agency aims for a moon flight with astronauts in two years and a moon landing by a human crew as early as 2025. That’s much later than NASA anticipated when it started the program more than a decade ago, when the space shuttle fleet was retiring. The years of delay have added billions of dollars to the cost.
“Now, for the first time since 1972, we’re going to launch a rocket designed for deep space,” NASA’s rocket program manager, John Honeycutt, said recently.
NASA’s new SLS moon rocket, short for Space Launch System, is 12 meters shorter than the Saturn V rockets used during Apollo half a century ago. But it’s more powerful, using a core stage and dual strap-on boosters, similar to the ones used for the space shuttles.
“If you look at the rocket, it almost looks retro. It looks like we’re looking back at Saturn V,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson told reporters earlier this month. “But it’s a totally different, new, very advanced, more advanced rocket and spacecraft.”
Twenty-four astronauts flew to the moon during Apollo, 12 of which landed on the moon from 1969 to 1972. The space agency wants a more diverse team and more sustained efforts under Artemis, named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister.
“I want to underline that this is a test flight,” Nelson said. “It’s just the beginning.”
This was the rocket’s third trip to the path. An April countdown was marred by fuel leaks and other equipment problems, forcing NASA to return the rocket to the hangar for repairs. The dress rehearsal was repeated on the pad in June, with improved results.
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