NASA film traces Artemis 1 rocket's 'Path to the Pad' as mission stack rolls out today

All eyes will be trained on the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today as NASA's magnificent Artemis 1 rocket and Orion capsule trot out to Launch Complex 39B.  

Starting Tuesday evening (Aug. 16), the rocket, deemed more powerful than any before, will take a 4-mile (6.4 kilometers) one-way trip atop the fortified Crawler-Transporter 2 at the glacial speed of 1 mph (1.6 kph) while burning a gallon (3.8 liters) of diesel fuel every 42 feet (13 meters). If all goes well, the Artemis 1 rocket's next major journey will be launch, currently targeting Aug. 29.

To celebrate, NASA has released the first installment of the "Path to the Pad" video series chronicling the events surrounding this month's milestone mission. This premiere chapter focuses on the gargantuan Space Launch System (SLS) rocket itself, running through the complex assembly process and jaw-dropping statistics for the most impressive launch vehicle NASA has ever constructed. With an astonishing 8.8 million pounds of thrust, this epic candle is truly the king of the launch pad.

Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission explained in photos

The core stage of the Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket as seen upon its arrival at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 27, 202. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

The new 13-minute short features documentary footage of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and the dizzying logistics of the colossal rocket's evolution into the 321-foot-tall (98 meters) launch vehicle that will carry humanity back to the moon. 

From the five-segment boosters' creation at Northrop Grumman’s Propulsion Systems Division in Promontory, Utah, and their 10-day train ride to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a thorough inspection and eventual stacking, this fascinating new video presents an insiders' look at the awe-inspiring SLS boosters, 188,000-pound core stage, and the Orion capsule's single-engine Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS).

Following the Tuesday rollout, the real show kicks off no sooner than Aug. 29, when Artemis 1's rocket will roar to life and break the bonds of gravity en route to a 40-or-so day uncrewed excursion around the moon to confirm the functions and systems upon which the humans strapping in for 2024's Artemis 2 moon-orbiting mission will rely. 

Today's snail's-pace trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building out to the actual launch pad will take roughly eight hours, giving visitors, tourists, and space fans ample opportunities to soak in the atmosphere and snap some dramatic photos of the megarocket.

For details on how to watch NASA's Artemis 1 teleconferences and rollout webcast this week, check out our comprehensive viewers guide!

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.