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NASA's Artemis 1 megarocket rolls back to launch pad for moon mission

artemis 1 behind lake
NASA's Artemis 1 Space Launch System moon rocket rolled out to its Launch Pad 39B pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida overnight on Aug. 16-17, 2022 for an Aug. 29 launch to the moon. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA's Artemis 1 moon rocket headed back to the launch pad Tuesday night (Aug. 19) to take a step closer to a landmark lunar mission.

Artemis 1 is an uncrewed test flight of the huge Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and its Orion spacecraft, and it began the rollout to a Kennedy Space Center launch pad at about 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT Wednesday, Aug. 17). By 7:30 a.m. EDT, it had reached its destination.

The Orion, stacked atop the rocket, began moving from the KSC's Vehicle Assembly Building for a journey that took more than 10 hours. The crawler carrying the Artemis 1 hardware had to make a journey to Launch Pad 39B at roughly 1 to 2 miles an hour (1.6 to 3.2 km/h).

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

NASA elected to bring the rocket out a full two days earlier than planned. The agency said on its Artemis blog (opens in new tab) that the team finished flight termination system testing, the last major activity required until the rocket was closed out and the final access platforms at the VAB were retracted.

NASA has not released a detailed schedule of the rollout, which is expected to last between 8 and 11 hours depending on weather conditions, road conditions and other technical matters.

Blastoff of the uncrewed mission is scheduled for no earlier than Aug. 29, and will bring the Orion spacecraft around the moon on a test of the vehicle's system for future human missions. In between will be several webcasts of the science and other tech on board the mission.

NASA hopes to send an Artemis 2 mission to orbit the moon, with people on board, as soon as 2024 with a landing mission, Artemis 3, set for 2025.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.