The first Artemis mission has proven to be a huge success, despite some issues with the heat shield upon reentry. With all that in mind, NASA announced that it is still targeting November 2024 to launch the first crewed Artemis mission.
Artemis II, which is set to launch sometime in November 2024, will see the Orion space capsule taking a crew of four around the Moon. The mission will test the overall capabilities of the astronauts and the spacecraft together. It will act as the first crewed Artemis mission and the precursor to NASA putting human boots back on the Moon’s surface.
NASA launched the first uncrewed Artemis mission in November 2022 after months of delays. While the mission was very touch-and-go in the lead-up, the Space Launch System held its own in flight and safely delivered the Orion capsule to space, where it continued its journey around the Moon. With that important data cataloged, NASA is already banking on the first crewed Artemis mission in the next 18 months.
Of course, saying that Artemis II will launch in 2024 and actually pulling it off are two different things altogether. There are some things that NASA wants to work out – like the fact that more of the material on Orion burned up in re-entry despite the heat shield’s design. The amount of material burned up was surprising to NASA, so it will need to sort that out before the first crewed Artemis mission can launch.
NASA is already working to better equip the Orion capsule for re-entry burnup to ensure that the human occupants inside are safe and sound when the spacecraft plummets back into Earth’s atmosphere at the end of its mission. Despite plans to launch the first crewed Artemis mission in November, space watchers know that delays are part of the process.
If NASA continues to see similar issues as they did with the original Artemis mission, we could likely see the launch pushed back. All we can do now is wait and appreciate the stunning views of the Moon that Artemis I provided during its orbit around our lunar satellite.