Artemis II is NASA’s first mission with crew aboard our foundational deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, and Orion spacecraft and will confirm all the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed with crew aboard in the actual environment of deep space. The mission will pave the way to way for lunar surface missions, including by the first woman and first person of color, establishing long-term lunar science and exploration capabilities, and inspire the next generation of explorers – The Artemis Generation.
The crew of four astronauts will lift off on the approximately 10-day mission from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, heading out beyond Earth’s grasp atop the agency’s mega Moon rocket. Over the course of about two days, they will check out Orion’s systems and perform a targeting demonstration test relatively close to Earth before then beginning the trek toward the Moon.
Orion’s European-built service module will give the spacecraft the big push needed to break free from Earth orbit and set course for the Moon. This trans-lunar injection burn will send the astronauts on an outbound trip of about four days, taking them around the far side of the Moon, where they will ultimately create a figure eight extending more than 230,000 miles from Earth. At their max distance, the crew will fly about 6,400 miles beyond the Moon. During the approximate four-day return trip, the astronauts will continue to evaluate the spacecraft’s systems.
Instead of requiring propulsion on the return, this fuel-efficient trajectory harnesses the Earth-Moon gravity field, ensuring that—after its trip around the far side of the Moon—Orion will be pulled back naturally by Earth’s gravity for the free return portion of the mission.
The crew will endure the high-speed, high-temperature reentry through Earth’s atmosphere before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego, where they will be met by a recovery team of NASA and Department of Defense personnel who will bring them back to shore.