Space

NASA Artemis I Mega Moon Rocket Rolls Out to Launch Pad for First Time

It's not long before the world's most powerful rocket lifts off.

NASA rolled out the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the first time on March 17 at Kennedy Space Center.
NASA

NASA's mind-bogglingly big Space Launch System will, if all things go according to plan, launch to the moon sometime later this year. NASA rolled the SLS and Orion spacecraft out to the launchpad for the first time on Thursday -- and it was a sight to behold.

The rollout at Florida's Kennedy Space Center is a spectacular feat of engineering. It involves driving a behemoth crawler-transporter (a moving platform capable of handling millions of pounds of rocket and spacecraft) under SLS and then slowly transporting the rocket into place on the pad.

It isn't a fast process though. NASA said the 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) trip will take between six and 12 hours to complete. As the rollout began, NASA started a livestreamed press conference, which you can rewatch by clicking play on the video below.

During the rollout ceremony, a full band played the National Anthem and then, after some speeches extolling the scientific importance of the Artemis I mission, Eddie Vedder made an appearance. The Pearl Jam front man played a song called Invincible, which NASA said "is inspired by the determination of our workforce."

Artemis I had been chilling in the massive Vehicle Assembly Building as NASA put all of its components together and ran through testing indoors. The uncrewed mission will be an around-the-moon test flight of SLS and Orion prior to sending actual humans into space with Artemis II.

The wet dress rehearsal -- targeted to begin on April 3 -- is a critical test that involves loading the rocket with 700,000 gallons of propellants and then practicing the launch countdown as if it was real. Artemis I won't actually launch, but NASA will make sure it can safely go through all the steps and that the propellant can be drained at the end of it. 

On Thursday, NASA's Exploration Ground Systems team shared video footage of Artemis I inside the VAB. It gives a little bit of the sense of scale of a rocket that's taller than the Statue of Liberty. 

Artemis I will be quite a sight as it makes it way to the pad. If all goes well, NASA is looking at late May or June for launching the next era of moon missions with a mighty roar.