NASA is returning astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the final Apollo mission took flight in 1972. The new Artemis program currently includes three missions starting with an uncrewed lunar flyby mission to test the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft as soon as next year. The second Artemis spaceflight mission will introduce astronauts, and the third mission will make history as the first woman steps foot on the Moon.
Each Space Launch System rocket will lift off from Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Today NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems team practiced moving the mobile launcher, a 380-foot-tall structure, to the launch pad where EGS will “complete a thorough top-to-bottom washdown, removing any FOD, or foreign object debris, as an added safety measure in addition to the walk downs performed prior to launch.”
Space Explored photographer Jared Base attended NASA’s sunrise mobile launcher rollout today and captured up-close shots and video of the 10.5 million pound structure traveling from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B.
NASA’s mobile launcher is transferred using the crawler-transporter. This vehicle races… err, crawls… across a four-mile path from the VAB to the launchpad over the span of eight hours. This morning’s mobile launcher rollout was simply an exercise in testing the procedure.
Future tests including next year’s wet dress rehearsal will include the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft attached to the mobile launcher. Flight hardware is assembled and stacked inside NASA’s 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building before traveling 4.2 miles to Launch Pad 39B.
Once SLS and Orion reach their destination, the spaceflight hardware is lowered onto the launchpad by engineers and the crawler-transporter is removed. Then the rocket lifts off to send the spacecraft to its destination, be it the Moon, Mars, or beyond.