Artemis I: SLS is back on the launchpad once more ahead of a launch attempt next week

NASA is keeping an eye on weather conditions that could potentially lead to another launch scrub.
Chris Young
The SLS rocket at the launchpad.
The SLS rocket at the launchpad.

NASA / Twitter 

NASA's massive Space Launch System (SLS) is back on the launchpad ahead of another launch attempt next week.

The world waits with bated breath as NASA attempts to get the heavily-delayed Artemis I mission on its way to the moon.

The space agency announced last week that the uncrewed test mission's next launch attempt is scheduled for November 14, with a roughly one-hour launch window opening at 12:07 am. ET.

NASA's Artemis program faces intense scrutiny

Last week, on November 3, SLS slowly rolled the 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, to Pad 39B. It rolled atop NASA's Crawler-Transporter 2 for nearly 9 hours before reaching its destination.

The first two launch attempts of Artemis I were postponed due to issues with fuel leaks, and the launch was further delayed due to hurricane conditions. NASA's Artemis team is currently monitoring a storm that could be headed toward Pad 39B, but it has nonetheless given the go-ahead for launch next week. The time the 332-foot-tall (98-meter-tall) SLS rocket spent in the VAB allowed NASA's engineers to work on some of the issues that caused the early delays.

Artemis I: SLS is back on the launchpad once more ahead of a launch attempt next week
SLS in the background and Crawler-Transporter 2 tracks in the foreground.

Source: NASA / Twitter 

The Artemis program has been delayed for years, and it has faced criticism for going over budget and not utilizing reusable technology. In an August interview with IE, former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said the SLS program was "not progress" and that she "could not have imagined how late and how over budget it would be."

NASA's Artemis program faces intense scrutiny

Despite the evident problems, NASA's Artemis program was designed to serve as a stepping stone for human exploration on Mars. The crewed Artemis III mission — using a SpaceX Starship rocket as a lunar lander — will pave the way for NASA's lunar Gateway program, which will build a lunar orbital space station.

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Still, criticism persists due to the fact that the SLS has cost $4 billion and it has yet to reach orbit. The rocket's design repurposes outdated technology from the Space Shuttle program, which itself was plagued by hydrogen leak issues. NASA also had to turn to SpaceX to build its reusable lunar lander for Artemis III, further highlighting the disparity between its technology and that of the private contractor, which aims to revolutionize spaceflight with Starship further.

If Artemis I does take to the skies next week, the mission is expected to last 25 days. SLS will launch NASA's Orion capsule into orbit, and Orion will then travel to the moon and back for an eventual splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 9. If the mission is a success, the crewed Artemis II mission is expected to advance in 2024. Artemis II will fly astronauts around the moon and back in preparation for Artemis III in 2025 or 2026. The third Artemis mission will finally land astronauts back on the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.

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