Launch of the Artemis 1 lunar mission: what you need to know

NASA will send an unmanned space capsule into orbit of the Moon on Monday, marking the initial launch of an ambitious plan to establish a long-term presence on the Moon for scientific discovery and economic development.

The space capsule, called Artemis 1, will travel for about 40 days – reaching up to 60 miles from the moon and then 40,000 miles above the moon as it orbits above its dark side – before landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.

Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the launch at Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla., the White House announced Friday. At least 100,000 people will also watch on the beaches of Cape Canaveral as the shuttle takes off, Florida tourism officials estimated.

If the launch is successful, NASA will send a crew to orbit the moon on Artemis 2 in 2024. Eventually, the Artemis expedition as a whole could lead to the first crewed space trip to Mars, according to NASA.

Here’s everything you need to know about Monday’s launch:

When is the launch?

A two-hour launch window begins Monday at 8:33 a.m. ET, which means the launch could happen anytime during the following two-hour period. But the launch may not take place on Monday morning because NASA adheres to a strict set of weather criteria that determine whether a flight can take place.

US Space Force Space Launch Delta 45 meteorologists predicted a 70% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch window on Monday morning, according to a NASA blog post Thursday.

The launch will be postponed, for example, if the temperature at 132.5 feet and 257.5 feet exceeds 94.5 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 consecutive minutes. NASA is imposing additional weather restrictions, some of which depend on wind and humidity conditions.

If the launch does not take place on Monday, a second two-hour launch wind will begin on Friday, September 2 at 12:38 a.m. ET. If NASA postpones the second launch, a third two-hour window will begin Monday, September 5 at 5:12 p.m. ET.

How are you watching the launch?

ABC News will broadcast the launch live on Monday. Coverage will begin around 8:30 a.m. ET, right at the start of the time window. ABC News may not broadcast from launch if liftoff is postponed before the start of the timeslot.

Additionally, NASA will broadcast the launch on its website. Eager viewers can watch a continuous live stream from the launch site on YouTube.

What will the launch event consist of?

NASA’s live launch broadcast will include celebrity appearances from Jack Black, Chris Evans and Keke Palmer, as well as a special performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” from Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock.

The event will also include a performance of “America the Beautiful” by the Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

When does the shuttle come back?

If the capsule lifts off Monday morning, the mission will last 42 days, after which the capsule will dive into the Pacific Ocean off San Diego on October 10 at 11:53 a.m. ET.

If the capsule takes off during the second launch window, September 2, the mission will last 39 days with a landing in the Pacific on October 11; while a launch during the third window, September 5, would last 42 days and end on October 17.

What’s next for the Artemis Expedition?

In total, the Artemis Expedition includes four missions, each of which will cost around $4.1 billion. In total, the project will cost up to $93 billion by 2025, according to an audit by NASA’s Office of Inspector General.

If Artemis 1 is successful, Artemis 2 will take four astronauts close to the moon in 2024. After that, Artemis 3 will take a crewed shuttle for a moon landing. Finally, Artemis 4 will fly to a space station near the moon.

NASA hopes the Artemis expedition will enable crewed travel to Mars in the years to come.

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