NASA sets an ambitious new date for Artemis I moon mission launch

The Orion spacecraft and mega-powerful Space Launch System are almost ready for their first big test.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

NASA will launch its Artemis missions using the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System, seen together in this illustration.


The moon is sitting there in the night sky, silently beckoning humanity to return for another visit. It's been decades, but NASA is determined to return. First, however, the space agency needs to launch a successful Artemis I moon mission, and we now have a new target for that: February 2022.

There had been some hope of launching Artemis I, an uncrewed test flight around the moon, in the fall of 2021, but it's no surprise the launch has been pushed into next year.  

NASA just crossed a major milestone by connecting the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft inside the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "With stacking complete, a series of integrated tests now sit between the mega moon rocket and targeted liftoff for deep space in February 2022," NASA said in a statement on Friday.

The space agency laid out the many tests that will need to be completed before launch, including status checks of systems, interfaces and communications. SLS and Orion will also go through a simulated launch and a "wet dress rehearsal" that involves loading propellent into the rocket. A more exact launch date will be announced after a successful rehearsal. 

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"The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will provide a foundation for human deep-space exploration and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II," NASA said.

The Artemis I launch is full of excitement and promise, a kickoff to a new era of lunar exploration. It will also be a crucial test of what NASA says is the most powerful rocket it's ever built. It will let NASA know if Orion is safe for astronauts as we inch closer to the main event: humans on the moon once again. 

Watch this: NASA astronaut Jessica Meir talks about her new Artemis assignment and spacesuit struggles