CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA — After a full day of checklists at Kennedy Space Center, NASA officials gave a “go” to the launch of the 322-foot Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Takeoff is scheduled for 8:33 am EDT on Monday, August 29.
During this Monday’s review briefing, Bob Cabana, NASA’s associate administrator, said, “We are ‘go’ for launch, which is absolutely outstanding. This day has been a long time coming.” The Artemis I mission has a two-hour launch window on Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39B if needed. If the rocket fails to launch in the two-hour window, NASA will reschedule for September 2.
The SLS’s multibillion-dollar project, delayed multiple times, is now ready to launch its Orion capsule on a complex 45-day mission testing the spacecraft and its systems.
“I want to put this in perspective,” Cabana said at the briefing, “this is a test flight and not without risk. We’ve analyzed the risk as best we can, and we have mitigated it as best we can. We are stressing Orion beyond what it was originally designed for in preparation for sending it to the moon with a crew.”
This first mission will not carry astronauts but will enter a Lunar orbit autonomously and spend 42 days in space – twice the amount of time it was designed for – then descend back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean in early October.
Space exploration isn’t as expensive as people think. NASA’s budget is only 0.5 percent of the federal budget, and funds spent on NASA’s projects positively impact the U.S. economy.
Designed and tested by Lockheed Martin on the Space Coast in Brevard County, the space capsule is part of a private-sector agreement with NASA. The commercial market fostered by the federal government includes nearly 250 partnership agreements. Kennedy Space Center’s economic report shows that over 27,000 jobs have been created in Florida in addition to the 12,312 employees at the spaceport.
FOSTERING A COMMERCIAL MARKET
“Launching rockets and exploring space is no longer a government-only endeavor,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro. “NASA is leading the way in fostering a commercial market in low-Earth orbit and opening up space to everyone, and that creates tremendous economic benefits here on planet Earth.”
According to the Business Services and Cost Assessment Branch of NASA’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Florida spaceport operations had an economic impact of $5.25 billion in sales on Florida’s economy. For every $1 spent at Kennedy Space Center, $1.82 went back into Florida’s economy.
The American people believe that the U.S. should continue leading the way in space exploration. For example, according to Pew Research, 71 percent of the Baby Boomer generation and 70 percent of Millennials – who grew up watching the Space Shuttle – expressed strong public support of the space program.
The research also showed that 44 percent of Americans are confident that private companies, such as SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin, will expand development and contribute to new technology. However, they also believe that NASA still has an essential role.
SPACE EXPLORATION: AMERICA'S RENEWED SPIRIT
In John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on September 12, 1962 at Rice University, he told a crowd of 40,000 people that the U.S. could not fall behind in the race for space exploration. But he challenged that America must be bold in her efforts to make advances in technology.
“For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the Moon, and to the planets beyond. And we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding,” JFK said.
The countdown begins on Saturday morning, forty-six hours before liftoff. The Boeing-engineered SLS rocket, energized by two solid-fuel rocket boosters and four RS-25 engines left over from the Space Shuttle, is the most powerful and largest rocket ever launched from the U.S.
If the mission is successful, the Orion will launch two astronauts on its next Artemis II flight in 2024. Then, later in 2025, Artemis III will put two more astronauts, including the first woman, onto the Moon’s surface.
If the attempt is scrubbed on Monday, two backup times are scheduled on September 2 at 12:48 pm and September 5 at 5:12 pm.