For the first time in 50 years, a spacecraft is preparing to embark on a journey to the Moon.

The uncrewed Artemis I mission, which includes the Space Launch System Rocket and the Orion spacecraft, is scheduled to lift off on August 29 between 8:33 a.m. ET and 10:33 a.m. ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. in Florida.

And while there is no human crew aboard the mission, it is the first step in the Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and eventually land them on Mars.

The Orion spacecraft will enter a distant retrograde orbit of the Moon and travel 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) further, going farther than any spacecraft intended to carry humans. Crews will travel aboard Artemis II on a similar trajectory in 2024, and the first woman and next man to land on the moon are scheduled to arrive at the lunar south pole in late 2025 on the Artemis III mission.

The agency will share live views as well as coverage in English and Spanish before, during and after the launch of Artemis I on your website and on NASA TV. The broadcast will begin at 12 am ET when the supercold propellant is loaded onto the SLS rocket.

Featured as part of the program are celebrity appearances by Jack Black, Chris Evans and Keke Palmer and performances of Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock’s “The Star-Spangled Banner” and The Philadelphia Orchestra’s “America the Beautiful” and the cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Once launch occurs, NASA will hold a post-launch briefing, and later that day the agency will share the first views of Earth from cameras aboard the Orion spacecraft.

Orion’s journey will take 42 days as it travels to the moon, around it and back to Earth, traveling a total of 2.1 million kilometers (1.3 million miles). The capsule will land in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on October 10.

Cameras on and off Orion will share images and video throughout the mission, including live views of the Callisto experiment, which will capture a sequence of a mannequin called Commander Moonikin Campos sitting in the commander’s seat. If you have an Amazon Alexa-enabled device, you can ask it for the location of the mission every day.

What will the Moonikin Campos do on his trip to the Moon? 0:42This is everything you can expect before, during and after launch.

countdown to launch

The official launch countdown began on August 27 at 10:23 am ET.

The call to stations was made Saturday morning at the Kennedy Space Center, as well as to teams offering support from various centers across the country. This is when all the teams associated with the mission reach their consoles and report that they are ready, starting a two-day countdown.

Over the weekend, engineers will power up the Orion spacecraft, the intermediate cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) — the top of the rocket — and the core stage, charge the batteries and do final preparation for the engines.

Late Sunday night through early Monday morning, the launch team will hold a briefing to discuss weather conditions and decide whether to “go” or “no go” to start fueling the rocket.

If all looks good, the team will begin fueling the rocket’s core stage eight hours before launch. Five hours earlier, the upper stage will start fueling. The team will then top up and replenish the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that is dissipated during the refueling process.

Approximately 50 minutes before launch, the final briefing by NASA’s test manager will take place. A planned 30-minute countdown will begin 40 minutes before launch.

The launch director will poll the team to ensure all stations are “on” 15 minutes before liftoff.

At 10 minutes and counting, things kick into high gear as the spacecraft and rocket make their way through the final steps. Much of the action takes place at the last minute, when the ground launch sequencer sends the command for the rocket flight computer’s automated launch sequencer to take over about 30 seconds before launch.

In the last few seconds, the hydrogen will burn, all four RS-25 engines will start, resulting in a boost firing and a T-minus-zero takeoff.

Trip to the moon

After liftoff, the rocket boosters will separate from the spacecraft about two minutes into flight and fall into the Atlantic Ocean, with other components also disposed of soon after. The center part of the rocket will separate about eight minutes later and drop into the Pacific Ocean, allowing Orion’s solar panel wings to unfold.

The lifting maneuver will occur approximately 12 minutes after launch, when ICPS will experience a burn to raise Orion’s altitude so it does not re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. Shortly thereafter, the translunar injection burn occurs, when ICPS increases Orion’s speed from 17,500 miles per hour (28,163 kilometers per hour) to 22,600 miles per hour (36,371 kilometers per hour) to escape the pull of gravity. from Earth and go to the Moon.

After this burn, ICPS will separate from Orion.

At around 4:30 p.m., Orion will make its first departure trajectory correction using the European Service Module, which provides the spacecraft with power, propulsion and thermal control. This maneuver will put Orion on its way to the Moon.

The next few days after launch, Orion will venture out to the Moon, coming within 96 kilometers (60 miles) during its closest approach to the lunar surface on the sixth day of the journey, or September 3 if launch occurs as planned. planned on August 29. The service module will place Orion in a far retrograde orbit around the Moon on the 10th, or September 7.

On September 8 when it circles the Moon, Orion will surpass the distance record of 400,169 kilometers (248,654 miles), set by Apollo 13 in 1970. The spacecraft will reach its maximum distance from Earth of 450,616 kilometers (280,000 miles). ) on September 23 when it ventures 64,373 kilometers (40,000 miles) beyond the Moon.

This is 48,280 kilometers (30,000 miles) more than the Apollo 13 record.

Orion will make its second closest approach to the lunar surface, coming within 500 miles (804 kilometers) on October 3. The service module will experience a burn that will allow the moon’s gravity to pull Orion back to Earth.

Just before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the service module will separate from Orion. The spacecraft will hit the top of Earth’s atmosphere moving at about 25,000 miles per hour (40,233 kilometers per hour), and its heat shield will experience temperatures of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).

The atmosphere will slow Orion down to about 300 miles per hour (482 kilometers per hour), and a series of parachutes will slow it down to less than 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) before it crashes into the Pacific Ocean at 11 :53 a.m.

The splashdown will be streamed live from NASA’s website, compiling views from the 17 cameras aboard the recovery ship and the helicopters that will be awaiting Orion’s return.

The landing and recovery team will pick up the Orion capsule, and the data collected by the spacecraft will determine what lessons have been learned before humans return to the Moon.