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NASA aiming for late August test flight of giant moon rocket

NASA is heading for the moon … again. It’s 98m-tall Artemis rocket could launch as early as August, with a goal of getting man back to the moon by 2025.

July 21, 2022
By Marcia Dunn
21 July 2022

On the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, NASA announced it’s shooting for a late August launch of its giant, new moon rocket.

NASA will attempt the more than month-long lunar test flight with three mannequins – no astronauts – as early as August 29. With two other launch dates in early September, before NASA would have to stand down for two weeks.

NASA’s Jim Free noted the test flight begins “our Artemis program to go back to the moon”. The space agency’s new lunar program is named Artemis after Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology.

The 30-storey Space Launch System rocket and attached Orion capsule are currently in the hangar at Kennedy Space Center, following repairs stemming from last month’s countdown test. Fuel leaks and other technical trouble cropped up during NASA’s repeated launch rehearsals at the pad.

A Strawberry Supermoon sets in front of the NASA Artemis rocket with Orion spacecraft aboard at the Kennedy Space Centre during last month’s countdown test. (AP)

NASA officials claim the problems have been resolved and testing is almost complete. They cautioned launch dates could slip, depending on the volatile Florida weather and issues that might arise before the rocket is supposed to return to the pad on August 18.

“We’re going to be careful,” said Free, who is the head of exploration systems development.

At 98m, the rocket and Orion capsule are taller than the Statue of Liberty.

If Orion’s trip to the moon and back goes well, astronauts could climb aboard in 2023 for a lunar loop-around and actually land in 2025.

Buzz Aldrin Jr and fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong were the first men to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission. Astronaut Michael Collins flew the command module. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

Astronauts last explored the moon in 1972. The first of the 12 moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, stepped on to the dusty grey surface on July 20, 1969, while Michael Collins orbited the moon.

The 92-year-old Aldrin, the sole survivor of the three, noted the anniversary in a tweet: “Neil, Michael & I were proud to represent America as we took those giant leaps for mankind. It was a moment which united the world and America’s finest hour.”

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