NASA's Artemis I Is Cleared to Launch Tonight — What to Know

After several delays, the historic rocket launch is a go for 1:04 a.m. ET.

NASA Artemis I rocket.

After several months of mechanical and weather delays, NASA finally has a confirmed launch date for the Artemis I mission aboard the Orion spacecraft. Early on Wednesday, Nov. 16, NASA will launch the rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Artemis I's purpose is to be one of several unmanned missions to "create a long-term human presence on the moon," NASA explained on the Artemis I blog.

When Artemis I launches it will be visible along Florida's space coast, as far north as Savannah, and as far west as Tallahassee approximately 70 seconds after launch, according to NASA. The unmanned mission will last approximately 25 days, with a splashdown scheduled for Dec. 11.

When will the launch take place?

As of now NASA plans to launch Artemis I on Nov. 16 at 1:04 a.m ET, according to a NASA blog post. The space agency says conditions are over 90% favorable for launch in a recent update.

How can people watch?

People all over the world can tune in to NASA’s YouTube page for the official launch. In preparation for the big moment space fans can watch a preview of the flight online.

How long will the rocket circle the moon?

The entire mission will take 25 days, 11 hours, and 36 minutes. This is shortened from the original mission of approximately 42 days.

Why is the launch so historic?

Artemis I, which was initially supposed to launch in 2021 before it was beset by a series of technical and weather issues, will mark the beginning of NASA’s journey back to the moon. The last time a human walked on the surface of the moon was 1972 with Apollo 17, the last of the Apollo missions, according to NASA.

During its orbit, the Orion spacecraft will fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown, traveling 280,000 miles away from Earth and 40,000 miles beyond the far side of the moon (beating the previous record set during Apollo 13). The craft will get within about 60 miles of the lunar surface.

“With Artemis I, NASA sets the stage for human exploration into deep space, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars,” NASA wrote on its launch website. “With Artemis, NASA will collaborate with industry and international partners to establish long-term exploration for the first time.”

Additionally, NASA will deploy ten small satellites as part of the mission to study the moon or head further out into deep space.

Why is the mission unmanned?

NASA says this mission will “provide a foundation for human deep space exploration,” testing the capabilities of the rocket and spacecraft. While no crew will be on board, the Orion will host three “passengers” in the form of mannequins that will be fitted with sensors to record everything from vibration to radiation levels.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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