NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission is poised to launch a new era of U.S. lunar exploration this month.
Artemis 1 is an uncrewed test flight of massive Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and its Orion spacecraft, which NASA will use for crewed flights to the moon later this decade. The planned launch date for Artemis 1 is Aug. 29, with Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 as backup days.
But just because there will be no astronauts aboard Artemis 1 doesn't mean NASA isn't planning to gather a lot of lunar science on the flight. In three teleconferences on Aug. 15, Aug. 16 and Aug. 17, NASA is detailing the myriad of science payloads hitching a ride on Artemis for its 42-day mission around the moon. You'll be able to listen in on the teleconferences for free on this page. Here's a schedule of what to expect.
Wednesday, Aug. 17: Artemis 1 radiation science
NASA's final press teleconference of the week will be at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT) on Wednesday (Aug. 17). It will be centered on the radiation science NASA hopes to glean from the Artemis 1 mission.
Artemis 1 is the first mission of NASA's larger Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon, build a sustainable moon base and then aim for Mars. The astronauts on those long moon missions will be subject to a much harsher radiation environment than those in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station (ISS). To understand the risks of space radiation, as well as to develop countermeasures, Artemis 1 is carrying several payloads for scientists.
Among them is the StemRad radiation vest, which will be worn by one of two dummy torsos on the Orion spacecraft to measure the radiation environment. The mission will also include plant experiments and BioSentinel, a cubesat that will grow yeast in the deep-space radiation environment over the course of a year.
Here's who will discuss the space radiation goals of Artemis 1:
- Ramona Gaza, MARE science team lead, NASA's Johnson Space Center
- Thomas Berger, Helga and Zohar principal investigator, German Aerospace Center
- Oren Milstein, chief executive officer, StemRad
- Ye Zhang, plant biology program scientist, NASA Biological and Physical Sciences
- Sergio Santa Maria, BioSentinel lead scientist, NASA's Ames Research Center
- Mihir I. Desai, CuSP principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI)
Extra webcast! In addition to the Artemis 1 briefing, NASA will also webcast live views from a Russian spacewalk at the ISS on Wednesday. That webcast begins at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) and will track Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev as they work outside the station's Russian segment.
Thursday, Aug. 18: SpaceX-25 Dragon cargo ship landing
Extra webcast! The Artemis 1 rollout is not the only space event this week. A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship will also depart the ISS to begin its trip back to Earth on Thursday, Aug. 18.
The SpaceX-25 Dragon cargo ship will undock from the station at 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT), while NASA's webcast of the departure will begin at 10:45 a.m. EDT (1445 GMT).
SpaceX's Dragon is expected to return to Earth later in the day on Aug. 18 to bring about 4,000 pounds (1,815 kg) of supplies and science experiments to Earth. Splashdown is targeted off the coast of Florida so that the capsule can be retrieved and returned to the Kennedy Space Center, where it launched in July.
This week's webcasts will set the stage for NASA's Artemis 1 launch, which will likely have its own series of preflight briefings and webcasts. Space.com will share that briefing schedule as soon as it is available.
Aug. 15: Artemis 1 lunar science payloads
On Monday (Aug. 15), NASA held its first teleconference of the week at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) to highlight the lunar science payloads riding on Artemis 1.
"Ten shoebox-size secondary payloads, called CubeSats, are hitching a ride to space on Artemis I's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and several other investigations are flying inside the Orion spacecraft during the flight test," NASA officials wrote in an announcement (opens in new tab).
"Each of the payloads will perform science and technology experiments in deep space, expanding understanding of lunar science, technology developments, and deep space radiation."
Here's who to expect at the briefing:
- Jacob Bleacher, NASA chief exploration scientist
- Craig Hardgrove, principal investigator, LunaH-Map, Arizona State University
- Tatsuaki Hashimoto, project manager for OMOTENASHI, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
- Ryu Funase, project manager for EQUULEUS, JAXA
- Ben Malphrus, NASA principal investigator, Lunar IceCube
- Joseph Shoer, architect for Small Sat missions, Lockheed Martin
Aug. 16: Artemis 1 technology & solar system science
NASA's next briefing will be at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT) on Tuesday (Aug. 16.) In that briefing, agency officials will discuss the technology demonstration and solar system science payloads riding aboard the mission.
Those payloads include the Orion space capsule's crew survival systems (NASA has a new launch and entry spacesuit for astronauts onboard), as well as the ArgoMoon and NEOScout cubesats.
ArgoMoon is designed to take autonomous imagery of the SLS rocket's upper stage, called the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, and was built by the Italian company Argotec with support from Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, the Italian space agency.
"The cubesat will use high-definition cameras and advanced imaging software to record images of the ICPS, and later of the Earth and the moon, for historical documentation, [to] provide mission data on the deployment of other cubesats, and [to] test optical communication capabilities between the cubesat and Earth," NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab).
NEOScout is an audacious cubesat designed to visit an asteroid called 2020 GE, which is about the size of a school bus. The mission is overseen by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
"Launching with the Artemis I uncrewed test flight, NASA’s shoebox-size Near-Earth Asteroid Scout will chase down what will become the smallest asteroid ever to be visited by a spacecraft. It will get there by unfurling a solar sail to harness solar radiation for propulsion, making this the agency’s first deep space mission of its kind," NASA wrote in a description (opens in new tab).
Here's who you'll hear from in the press conference:
- Patrick Troutman, strategy and architectures liaison for NASA’s Moon to Mars Architecture Development Office
- Dustin Gohmert, Orion crew survival systems project manager, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
- Raffaele Mugnuolo, ArgoMoon program manager, Italian Space Agency
- Rob Chambers, director of commercial civil space strategy, Lockheed Martin
- Wesley Faler, team lead, Team Miles
- Julie Castillo-Rogez, NASA principal science investigator, NEAScout, NASA/JPL/Caltech
- Les Johnson, NASA principal technology investigator, NEAScout, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
Aug. 16: Artemis 1 moon rocket rollout
NASA rolled out the mission's Space Launch System megarocket and Orion spacecraft to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in coastal Florida on Tuesday (Aug. 16). You can watch coverage of the rollout beginning at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT), courtesy of the agency. It will be streamed live on the Kennedy Space Center Newsroom YouTube channel (opens in new tab).
The rollout is expected to take several hours as the SLS rocket moves to the pad atop it Mobile Launch Platform. NASA's Apollo-era crawler-carrier vehicle will haul the 322-foot-tall (98 meters) rocket to its pad.
NASA originally planned to roll the SLS rocket out to the launch pad on Thursday, Aug. 18, but announced plans (opens in new tab) to move the event up by two days on Monday (Aug. 15).
Editor's note: This story was update on Aug. 16 to correct the 9 p.m. EDT start time of NASA's Artemis 1 rocket rollout. Email Tariq Malik at email@example.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.