NASA plans to roll its Artemis 1 lunar mission off the launch pad Friday night (July 1), and you can watch the slow-moving action live.
The Stack of Artemis 1 – a space launch system (SLS) rocket topped by an Orion crew capsule — is scheduled to depart from pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 6:00 p.m. EDT on Friday (2200 GMT), weather permitting. The duo will head toward KSC’s cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), completing the 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) journey in eight to 12 hours atop the massive NASA building Crawler transporter 2 vehicle.
You can watch at least some parts of the rollback live here on Space.com courtesy of NASA. The agency will provide webcast coverage (opens in new tab) “the rocket leaving the launch pad and arriving at the VAB,” NASA officials wrote in a recent update (opens in new tab).
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission explained in pictures
Artemis 1 recently completed its “wet dress rehearsal,” a crucial series of tests and simulations designed to help determine a vehicle’s flight readiness. This wet dress success was hard won; The Artemis 1 team first attempted to reach the milestone in early April, but were thwarted by several technical issues, including a stuck valve. Team members rolled the stack back to the VAB for repairs on April 25, then shipped it to the pad for another try earlier this month.
The latest attempt didn’t go entirely smoothly – a hydrogen leak was discovered during the refueling process – but NASA officials did thought it was good enough Prepare Artemis 1 for launch.
Artemis 1 will send an unmanned Orion on a journey lasting about a month the moon. The mission team appears to be eyeing late August or early September for launch, but an official target date will not be set until the SLS and Orion have been fully inspected again at the VAB.
As the name suggests, Artemis 1 is NASA’s first mission Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by the late 2020s. If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will send a crew Orion around the moon in 2024, and Artemis 3 will drop astronauts near the lunar south pole about two years later.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated June 30 at 2:15 PM EDT with the new estimated rollback start time of 8:00 PM EDT. NASA moved the rollback forward by four hours (opens in new tab) due to expected bad weather overnight. The story was updated again at 7:20 p.m. EDT on June 30, with the last estimated rollback time being at 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 1, according to NASA officials said via Twitter (opens in new tab).
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).