HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — After years of work, NASA is preparing for the first launch of its Artemis program which will bring astronauts back to the Moon and eventually take them to Mars and beyond.
The missions will all be powered by the Space Launch System or SLS, that’s been developed and built by engineers in Huntsville and across the country.
On Wednesday, NASA and community leaders held a public briefing at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration in Huntsville to help community members better understand the Artemis program, the SLS and how this mission will impact the community.
Huntsville has been known as the Rocket City since 1953 and Mayor Tommy Battle said the Artemis mission will continue that legacy.
“The Rocket City is about to rock one more time,” Battle said.
After years of designing, building and testing, the SLS is preparing for launch for the Artemis I mission.
“SLS is the only exploration class vehicle that can send humans into deep space,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager.
Honeycutt explained Artemis I will be the first launch of many. During the test flight, the fully stacked and integrated SLS rocket will take the Orion spacecraft and research satellites into space.
“The first mission will be a test flight which will go further than we’ve ever been in space,” Honeycutt explained.
Honeycutt says human exploration shouldn’t be too far behind.
“On Artemis III, which is scheduled for 2024, we’ll have the first crewed mission to the lunar surface in the 21st century,” Honeycutt said.
The crew on Artemis III will include the first woman and the first person of color to go to the Moon.
Artemis is an endeavor with strong ties to the Rocket City.
“We in the City of Huntsville, Madison County, North Alabama ought to be proud. We own this rocket. We’re the ones developing it in partnership with industry and the rest of the country,” said David Beaman, SLS System Engineering Integration Manager.
The NASA Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville is playing a vital role in the program.
“The mission will be flown on the space launch system rocket the hardware has been built tested right here at Marshall Space Flight Center, at the Michoud Assembly Facility, I talked about Stennis, and with our partners all across the globe,” said Jody Singer, Marshall Space Flight Center Director.
And the Artemis Program has ties to UAH.
“I’m proud to say that I’ve always lived in the Rocket City and that I am a graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville,” Honeycutt said.
Mayor Tommy Battle says the program is also boosting Alabama’s economy.
“The SLS program has contributed $2.4 billion to Alabama’s economy, 13,000 jobs across the state and has generated more than $55 million in state and local taxes,” said Mayor Battle.
It’s also inspiring the next generation.
“There’s just nothing like being able to do things, and reach for the stars, and go beyond where you ever thought you would go,” Singer said.
Singer, who watched Apollo 11 take flight as a young girl, calls young people watching this new endeavor take flight the ‘Artemis Generation’.
Honeycutt says NASA has not confirmed a date for the Artemis I launch, but it is anticipated to take place late this year or early next year.
Officials with the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce say there are many events being held in Huntsville to get the community excited for the Artemis 1 launch. They begin as early as this month.