Science | March 19, 2022 5:07 pm

NASA’s Artemis 1 Rocket Is Now At the Launch Pad

A new age of lunar exploration beckons

Artemis I rocket
The Artemis I rocket being readied for launch.
NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

If you were born after 1972, you’ve never seen something that was — for a brief time in the late 1960s and early 1970s — a relatively frequent event: a crewed lunar landing. Apollo 17 was the last such mission, and while a number of uncrewed missions have visited the Moon in the decades since, no human has set foot there.

That’s about to change.

NASA’s Artemis program has a series of expansive goals, including using Earth’s moon as a stepping stone to explore even more of the solar system. While we’re still a little ways away from a crewed mission there — estimates suggest that that will take place in 2025 — every journey has to begin somewhere, and this one’s increasingly close to doing so.

As Space.com reports, Artemis 1 arrived at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center at dawn on Friday, March 18. It wouldn’t be correct to say that a launch is imminent, however. Instead, the Space Launch System and the Orion capsule are set to undergo extensive tests before launch.

That launch date is as yet unspecified, but it won’t be until at least May. The goals for Artemis 1 are simple: send an uncrewed capsule to the Moon and back. Assuming that’s successful, Artemis 2 will orbit the moon with a crew on board. Until then, there are two seasons of For All Mankind to whet your lunar exploration appetite.