Nasa is preparing to launch Artemis-1, a mission that can begin the space agency’s plan to return to the Moon.
The primary test goes with out a crew, and only across the Moon. But it should be a significant test not only of the Space Launch System that can someday carry humans, but of the decades-long plan that Nasa has drafted for returning to our nearest neighbour.
It’ll be the results of months of preparation, years of design, and many years of labor.
And it should all begin on Monday, 29 August, when the primary launch window opens. At 8.33am local eastern time, or 1.33pm within the UK, the primary launch window will open.
Nasa may have 120 minutes through which to fireside up the rocket and send it into space. If it misses that window, it should need to delay the launch.
But when it misses that window then it has one other set, on 2 September and 5 September.
It is probably going that Nasa will use the primary slot. The space agency has already said that it has a better tolerance for risk than it could have if there was a crew on board the rocket – and so the one thing more likely to delay the launch is terrible weather.
But nothing can ever be truly predicted with space, including weather and the rest besides. In January, as an example, SpaceX was forced to delay a launch just 33 seconds before it was on account of happen, because a cruise ship sailed too near the launchpad.
Once the rocket has left, it should spend 42 days in space, a few of which can include time within the Moon’s orbit. it should then drift back right down to Earth, splashing into the ocean.
All of that process will test how the Space Launch System is capable of blast off into space. The Orion capsule that can be the house for future astronauts may also be tested throughout the uncrewed journey.