NASA's Artemis I Launch Date — How to Watch the First Moon Mission in 50 Years

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The image shows a full moon glowing over the tip of a spacecraft, set up on a launchpad. Other iron towers rise into an indigo sky. A blurred branch drifts in from the left of the image, in the foreground.
A full moon is in view from Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 14, 2022. The Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, atop the mobile launcher, are being prepared for a final test to practice timelines and procedures for launch. (Cory Huston/NASA)

Update 8:20 a.m., Friday: The Artemis I launch has been postponed due to a fuel leak and then an engine problem. The next launch attempt will be on Saturday, September 3 at 11:17 a.m. PST.

NASA’s launch of Artemis I will kick-start the space agency's "Moon to Mars" initiative by sending an uncrewed spacecraft to orbit the moon for six weeks. The Artemis program, which you can watch below, aims to return humans to the moon in order to learn about survival in space.

“NASA's Artemis program will pave the way for humanity’s giant leap for future missions to Mars. There's no doubt that we are in a golden era of human space exploration, discovery and ingenuity in space and it all begins with Artemis I,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.

NASA is providing a livestream of the liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. You can watch the livestream right here, or join a watch party.

Should weather or any other problem interfere with the launch, NASA has set Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 as alternative dates.

Artemis I will send the Orion capsule into orbit carrying three mannequins fitted with sensors to provide data on what crew members may experience in future flights.

Orion will orbit the moon for about 42 days, allowing time for NASA to test a series of critical systems before it moves forward with a crewed mission.

The spacecraft's heat shield, for example, must protect the Orion capsule from the extreme temperatures (approximately 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit) that it will encounter when reentering Earth’s atmosphere. NASA will also monitor Orion’s navigation systems and its resilience when traveling through high radiation environments near Earth and the moon.

The spacecraft will approach the lunar surface, getting as close as 60 miles aboveground before traveling roughly 40,000 miles beyond the moon and back to Earth, in a test of reentry, descent and splashdown.

If successful, this will pave the way for Artemis II, which will carry a human crew around the moon

An illustration of the full Gateway configuration with Orion approaching Gateway
An illustration of the full Gateway configuration with Orion approaching Gateway. (Alberto Bertolin/NASA)

Between 1968 and 1972, America launched nine human missions to the moon, six of which successfully touched down, allowing 12 men to walk on the lunar surfaces. Artemis III — slated for 2025 and the last mission in the Artemis program — will land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon's surface. It will be the first time humans have stepped foot on the moon for more than 50 years.

Before Artemis III lifts off, NASA plans to build Gateway, a multipurpose outpost orbiting the moon that will be a home base for astronauts to live between landings on the lunar surface, and a laboratory to support scientific research and human exploration on and around the moon. Gateway will provide options for Earth science, heliophysics, lunar and planetary science, and more by allowing extended views of the Earth, sun, moon and space not possible from Earth's surface or from Earth's orbit.

“This is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known,” said Mike Sarafin, NASA's mission manager for Artemis I.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, after being rolled out to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, after being rolled out at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Joel Kowsky/NASA)

The Artemis I mission was originally scheduled to lift off in 2021, but supply chain lags and other problems delayed the development of the vehicles NASA plans to use for the mission. The cost so far is at least $37 billion, and Artemis missions will cost NASA around $93 billion by 2025. NASA's Bill Nelson has called the Artemis program an "economic engine," noting that in 2019 alone it generated $14 billion in commerce and supported 70,000 American jobs.