The NASA Exploration Ground Systems team completed the operation Wednesday, placing the fully assembled Orion spacecraft precisely where it needs to be for its next step currently underway: fully securing the spacecraft to the NASA SLS rocket.
“Thanks to the team’s hard work designing, manufacturing, testing, and now completing assembly of NASA’s new rocket and spacecraft, we’re in the home stretch of preparations for the first launch on the Artemis I mission, paving the way to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond for many years to come,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a release.
The Artemis missions primarily aim to eventually “land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon,” according to NASA officials.
The first mission, Artemis I, will be an uncrewed test flight, featuring a human-weighted manikin and two dummy torsos to fly around the moon and return to Earth. If successful, the team will begin preparations for the crewed mission, Artemis II.
The crew aboard the 67-foot-tall Orion spacecraft will be blasted into space by the massive heavy-lifting launch vehicle, the SLS.
The Orion is the “safest spacecraft designed by NASA,” according to officials, and larger than previous Apollo mission spacecraft. With a larger crew module, it will be capable of supporting more crew members. It can last up to 21 days undocked and up to six months docked.
Artemis II will be the first crewed lunar landing mission since Apollo 17 in 1972.
NASA released a video of the Orion spacecraft lift, which can be viewed here.