CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – As soon as Artemis I ended so perfectly Sunday, gently splashing down in the pacific, the Orion capsule scorched but intact, NASA looked ahead to Artemis II.
At a press briefing several hours after the splashdown, Jim Free, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, said the plan was always to try and launch Artemis II - with astronauts on board - two years after Artemis I, but will try to “do it quicker.”
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“We definitely pushed this vehicle far so we can be on to Artemis II, which is happening today at Kennedy,” Free said. “The crew module is there, the service module is there, the engine section arrived yesterday. At that rate, the vehicle is a reality.”
The infrastructure is in place to launch Artemis II sooner. The hardware, the people, the processes to build, test and transport the next mega-rocket already exist, and it all works.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the money to pay for it all will be there.
“I’m not worried about the support from the Congress,” Nelson said. “We will have that. And in fact we do have that.”
Just a month ago when the future of the entire Artemis program was uncertain, before the first test launch, several years and billions of dollars behind schedule when critics wondered if Artemis could survive if the first moon mission failed.
Instead, the opposite happened.
Artemis I has all but assured an Artemis II mission.
“This is what mission success looks like, folks,” Artemis I Mission Manager Mike Sarafin told reporters after the splashdown.
Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche said the crew of Artemis II will be announced early 2023.