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NASA astronauts buzz Artemis 1 SLS rocket in incredible jet flyby (photos)

Four NASA T-38 training jets fly past the SLS rocket on the launch pad.
Four NASA T-38 training jets fly past the SLS rocket on the launch pad. (Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

Being an astronaut has never looked this fun.

A group of NASA astronauts shared an incredible series of images showing them performing a flyby of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket while it sits waiting on the launch pad ahead of its scheduled Artemis 1 launch on Aug. 29. 

The images, shared on Twitter by astronauts Andrew Morgan and Reid Wiseman and astronaut candidate Christina Birch, show four NASA T-38 trainer jets flying in formation recently above both the 322-foot-tall (98 meters) SLS megarocket at Launch Complex 39B and the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates

"This week we flew over @NASAArtemis, thanking the @nasa centers across the country that put this Moon rocket on @NASAKennedy’s pad and celebrating the upcoming test flight!" Morgan, who flew on three missions aboard the International Space Station, wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab) on Thursday (Aug. 25). 

A pair of NASA T-38 jets fly past the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

Wiseman, current head of NASA's astronaut office, was much less verbose. "We. Are. Going! #Artemis1," reads Wiseman's tweet (opens in new tab) of the flyby image published Wednesday (Aug. 24).

T-38 jets fly past NASA's SLS rocket at Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

Birch added that the formation of two-seater T-38s included fellow astronaut candidates Jack Hathaway and Nichole "Vapor" Ayers.

NASA has used Northrop T-38 Talon jets as training aircraft and chase planes for over five decades. The twin-seat trainer can fly at supersonic speeds up to Mach 1.6 and reach altitudes up to 40,000 feet, higher than most commercial airliners. "The T-38 is a great aircraft for what we need at NASA because it's fast, it's high-performance and it's very simple," retired NASA astronaut and former International Space Station Commander Terry Virts said in a NASA statement in 2011 (opens in new tab). "It's safe and it's known. So compared to other airplanes, it's definitely one of the best."

Four T-38 Talons fly by NASA's Space Launch System Block 1 rocket at Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

As of Thursday (Aug. 25), the U.S. Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron has predicted a 70% chance (opens in new tab) of favorable weather on Monday (Aug. 29) for the launch of Artemis 1, which will send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a journey to lunar orbit and back. 

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Brett Tingley
Editor, Space.com

Brett is a science and technology journalist who is curious about emerging concepts in spaceflight and aerospace, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies, and uncrewed systems. Brett's work has appeared on The War Zone at TheDrive.com, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery, and more. Brett has English degrees from Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett is a working musician, a hobbyist electronics engineer and cosplayer, an avid LEGO fan, and enjoys hiking and camping throughout the Appalachian Mountains with his wife and two children.