Space exploration continues to get a boost in 2021. NASA’s Artemis mission, the agency’s return to the lunar surface, is perhaps the most exciting — despite how intriguing the various Mars missions are — because it’ll be sending actual astronauts to another chunk of rock.
But while we’re used to seeing rockets blasting off, we don’t spend a whole lot of time checking out what happens beforehand. That changes now.
NASA has shared a 360° video of the construction of one of its Space Launch System (SLS) rockets, which are intended to take human beings to the moon. Once there, several companies (including SpaceX and Lockheed Martin/GM) will help out with the whole Artemis project, but the SLS is all NASA’s, baby.
In the video above, which is a time-lapse (because nobody moves a rocket around that fast), you can see the SLS core unit and its boosters — all 64 metres of it — being positioned next to two boosters. The procedure, the positioning of which will be familiar with anyone who saw the Space Shuttle in action, is being done at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in preparation for the Artemis-1 test launch expected to take place between November this year and March 2022.
The final launch vehicle will be a 98.1-metre tall two-stage monster that will test out NASA’s new Orion capsule and the SLS rocket, by sending them around the moon before coming back. That mission will be unmanned but there are several followups planned. One, set for 2023, will send astronauts around the moon and then there’s a 2024 mission that hopes to place humans on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.