“We expect to land about once a year for more than a decade,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said.
The launch will pave the way for the first long-term presence on the moon’s surface. It’s expected to roll out in three parts: a monthlong unmanned mission around the moon, a manned mission around the moon, and a moon landing, NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez said.
“To think, I was 10 years old when the last man stepped on the moon…and here we are more than 50 years later getting ready to go back,” he said.
A 45-hour test countdown known as the “wet dress rehearsal” has allowed team members to run through extensive checklists, shoring up operations and procedures.
It’s all leading up to the first phase of the lunar mission, the official launch of the 322-foot unmanned rocket and its Orion capsule.
The test flight will last nearly 30 days and will feature 18 astronauts, including Jessica Watkins, slated to be the first woman and person of color on the moon.
The astronauts have endured around-the-clock training in preparation for the leap into history. The voyage is expected to reach completion in 2025.