NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission is poised to launch a new era of U.S. lunar exploration this month. You can learn the science behind the flight (and watch its towering rocket head to the launch pad) in a series of webcasts next week.
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. The rocket will roll to its pad on Thursday (Aug. 18), which you’ll be able to watch online for free on this page, as well as via NASA’s website (opens in new tab), NASA TV and the NASA app (opens in new tab).
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 next week — on Aug. 15, Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 to be exact — NASA will detail 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, ahead of the SLS rocket rollout. Here’s a schedule of what to expect.
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates
More: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission explained in photos
Monday, Aug. 15: Artemis 1 lunar science payloadsOn Monday (Aug. 15), NASA will hold 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 scientistCraig Hardgrove, principal investigator, LunaH-Map, Arizona State UniversityTatsuaki Hashimoto, project manager for OMOTENASHI, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)Ryu Funase, project manager for EQUULEUS, JAXABen Malphrus, NASA principal investigator, Lunar IceCubeJoseph Shoer, architect for Small Sat missions, Lockheed MartinTuesday, Aug. 16: Artemis 1 technology & solar system scienceNASA’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.
Related: CubeSats: Tiny, Versatile Spacecraft Explained (Infographic)
“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 OfficeDustin Gohmert, Orion crew survival systems project manager, NASA’s Johnson Space CenterRaffaele Mugnuolo, ArgoMoon program manager, Italian Space AgencyRob Chambers, director of commercial civil space strategy, Lockheed MartinWesley Faler, team lead, Team MilesJulie Castillo-Rogez, NASA principal science investigator, NEAScout, NASA/JPL/CaltechLes Johnson, NASA principal technology investigator, NEAScout, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight CenterWednesday, Aug. 17: Artemis 1 radiation scienceNASA’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.
Related: How NASA’s Artemis moon landing with astronauts works
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 CenterThomas Berger, Helga and Zohar principal investigator, German Aerospace CenterOren Milstein, chief executive officer, StemRadYe Zhang, plant biology program scientist, NASA Biological and Physical SciencesSergio Santa Maria, BioSentinel lead scientist, NASA’s Ames Research CenterMihir 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: Artemis 1 moon rocket rolloutThe final Artemis 1 webcast event of the week will be on Thursday (Aug. 18), when NASA aims to begin rolling out the mission’s Space Launch System megarocket and Orion spacecraft to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in coastal Florida. The rollout could begin as early as 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).
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.
Extra webcast! The Artemis 1 rollout is not the only space event on Aug. 18. A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship will also depart the ISS to begin its trip back to Earth on the same day.
The SpaceX-25 Dragon cargo ship will undock from the station at 11:05 EDT (1505 GMT), while NASA’s webcast of the departure will begin at 10:45 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.
Next 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.
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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com’s Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.