NASA announced on Wednesday that it is planning a massive new moon rocket launch in late August, marking the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
NASA will conduct the more than month-long lunar testing flight, with three mannequins, but no astronauts, as early as August 29. There are two launch dates in early September, before NASA would have to stand down for two weeks.
Jim Free of NASA stated that the test flight will return to the moon. In Greek mythology, the new lunar program is named Artemis.
After repairs from last months countdown test, the 30-story Space Launch System rocket and attached Orion capsules are currently in the hangar at Kennedy Space Center. Fuel leaks and other technical difficulties occurred during NASA's repeated launch rehearsals at the pad.
Officials at NASA said Wednesday that the problems have been resolved and that testing is almost complete. However, they cautioned that the launch dates may vary depending on the unpredictable weather in Florida and concerns that might arise before the rocket is expected to return to the pad on August 18.
Free, the head of exploration systems development, said, "We'll be careful."
The rocket and the Orion capsule are 322 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.
If the Orions trip to the moon and back goes well, astronauts might board in 2023 for a lunar loop-around and actually land in 2025.
The first of the 12 moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, stepped onto the dusty gray surface on July 20, 1969, while Michael Collins orbited the moon.
In a tweet, Aldrin, the only survivor of the three, stated that Neil, Michael, and I were honored to represent America as we made these incredible leaps for mankind. It was a moment that united the world and America's finest hour.