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NASA’s Giant US Moon Rocket Debuts on Launchpad

Published: August 22, 2022
Space Launch System moon rocket
NASA's Space Launch System moon rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Aug. 17. The unmanned rocket is scheduled for liftoff on Aug. 29. (Image: NASA/Screenshot via Reuters)

NASA’s gigantic Space Launch System moon rocket, topped with an uncrewed astronaut capsule, made its launchpad debut on Tuesday (Aug. 16) ahead of the behemoth’s debut test flight this month.

The 322-foot-tall (98-meter) rocket is scheduled to embark on its first mission to space — without any humans — on Aug. 29. It will be a crucial, long-delayed demonstration trip to the moon for NASA’s Artemis program, the United States’ multibillion-dollar effort to return humans to the lunar surface as practice for future missions to Mars.

It took 11 hours for the rocket to make the journey overnight from its assembly building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its four-mile trek to the launchpad.

The development of the Space Launch System was led over the past decade by Boeing.

Sitting atop the rocket is NASA’s Orion astronaut capsule, built by Lockheed Martin, it is designed to separate from the rocket in space, ferry humans toward the moon and rendezvous with a separate spacecraft that will take astronauts to the lunar surface.

For the Aug. 29 mission, called Artemis 1, the Orion capsule will launch atop the Space Launch System without any humans and orbit the moon before returning to Earth for an ocean splashdown 42 days later.

By Reuters.