Artemis I, the upcoming NASA mission with a Space Launch System largely designed and developed at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center, isn’t in the air, yet, but center director Jody Singer is already celebrating.
Speaking to media on Friday, the day after a successful flight readiness review, she said that every successful test puts NASA one step closer to sending humans to the moon for the first time since 1972.
“We’re know we’re not there, yet, but we’re celebrating every critical milestone,” Singer said.
Some of the biggest milestones are coming up — the roll-out of the combined Space Launch System and Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, tentatively planned right now for mid-March, followed by a wet dress rehearsal (called “wet” because liquid propellants are loaded into the rocket during the test, and then the launch, possibly in late May.
When Artemis I launches, a whole lot of Huntsville ingenuity will be going with it. The Space Launch System — the rocket that will launch the Orion spacecraft to the moon — was designed and developed at Marshall. Artemis 1 will be uncrewed but will include CubeSats as its payload; Artemis II will carry a crew of four and more CubeSats; Artemis III, scheduled for 2025, is expected to be the first lunar landing of the Artemis program and will include the first woman going to the moon; and future Artemis missions will include building infrastructure on the moon that will help further exploration. All are scheduled to take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Marshall is a major player in all of this, and Friday’s event was designed to show off every aspect of that involvement. In addition to Singer, SLS Program Manager John Honeycutt spoke, as well as Joseph Pelfrey, Human Exploration Development and Operations Office manager; Hansel Gill, Michoud Assembly Facility deputy director; Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager of the Human Landing System Program; Les Johnson, principal technology investigator for the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout Solar Sail; Julie Bassler, manager of the SLS Core States Office; Mary Beth Koelbl, director of Marshall’s engineering directorate; and Naveen Vetcha, Break the Ice and CubeSat Challenge manager.
Honeycutt said that all of Marshall’s development and planning has come down to the upcoming Artemis I launch and the ones that follow.
“At the end of the day, this big mega-moon rocket has got to go fly,” he said.