The Artemis II astronauts that will be the first crew to fly around the Moon in 50 years got a peek at their spacecraft yesterday.
Visiting NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the crew checked out their ride that is currently undergoing acoustic testing at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. Once this testing is complete, the final assembly of the spacecraft will begin ahead of its planned launch no earlier than November 2024.
The crew consists of NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen.
Once completed, the Orion spacecraft will be attached to European Service Module that will provide propulsion and power to the Orion capsule.
The mission, which will last ten days for the trip to and around the Moon, moves NASA closer to landing on the Moon during the Artemis III mission. That mission, currently planned for 2025, will have the Orion capsule launch atop the Space Launch System and dock with SpaceX’s Starship, which will be optimized for landing on the Moon. It is possible that the Lunar Gateway space station will be completed by the time Artemis III launches; if so, Orion will dock there and transfer to Starship.
During yesterday’s news conference with the Artemis II crew and NASA officials, it was mentioned that if major components are not ready, they could repurpose the Artemis III mission.
However, no specifics were given. It is worth noting that neither SpaceX nor NASA has indicated that Starship will not be ready, and it could be due to other hardware, such as EVA suits, but again, nothing confirmed as being delayed.
One thing is certain, both NASA and SpaceX are pushing forward on their path to the Moon, and the Artemis II mission will be incredibly important in understanding what it will take to get there.