What’s a few more days of waiting for a mission that’s already many years in the making? NASA’s first giant step in returning humans to the moon could now take place on Nov. 14. On Wednesday, the space agency announced a fresh set of potential launch dates for its uncrewed Artemis I around-the-moon mission.
NASA will roll Artemis I back to out the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida as early as Nov. 4. The Nov. 14 attempt would mean a nighttime launch with a 69-minute window opening at 12:07 a.m. ET (9:07 p.m. PT on Nov. 13).
Artemis I involves an Orion capsule with no humans on board catching a ride to space on a powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The whole kit and caboodle has been out to the launchpad multiple times and stumbled through a series of wet dress rehearsals meant to simulate launch conditions.
It looked like Artemis I had a chance to get off this rock in August or September, but some technical issues followed by the arrival of Hurricane Ian meant it had to be rolled back into its jumbo garage for safekeeping during the storm. NASA said inspections have shown the rocket is pretty much ready to roll once again.
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“Teams will perform standard maintenance to repair minor damage to the foam and cork on the thermal protection system and recharge or replace batteries on the rocket, several secondary payloads, and the flight termination system,” NASA said.
The Nov. 14 date isn’t set in stone. A successful launch will depend on good weather and good behavior from the rocket’s systems. NASA has already requested backup launch opportunities for Nov. 16 and Nov. 19 in case the earlier date doesn’t work out.
If Artemis I takes off as planned on Nov. 14, it will spend just over 25 days on its mission to stroll around our lunar neighbor, testing Orion’s worthiness to carry human passengers for Artemis II. That would put it on track to return to Earth for a splashdown on Dec. 9.
NASA is no doubt hoping this attempt will be the one that finally flies and ushers in the Artemis era in earnest.