NASA's Orion crew capsule is now complete and ready for the next stage of the project.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence confirmed the big news during his speech at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission held at Kennedy Space Center on Saturday, July 20.
"Thanks to the hard work of the men and women of NASA, and of American industry, the Orion crew vehicle for the Artemis 1 mission is complete and ready to begin preparations for its historic first flight," Pence said.
The Orion crew module that is built by contractor Lockheed Martin is integrated with the European-built service module. It can transport a crew of four astronauts to journey at or beyond the low Earth orbit.
The integrated spacecraft will undergo testing at the KSC and then, it will be followed by thermal vacuum tests at NASA's Plum Brook Facility in Ohio in September. It is scheduled to return to KSC by the end of the year to prepare for its launch in space.
Artemis 1 Moon Mission
Orion's first Moon mission is named Artemis 1, and it will not be carrying anyone. The new Space Launch System will propel the uncrewed Orion to orbit the Moon in six days and then return to back to earth after a total of three weeks in space.
Artemis 1 is set to test all the hardware and operations of Orion spacecraft. When it comes back to Earth from space, it will splash down off Baja, California.
If the plan goes well, two astronauts will land on the Moon's South Pole. They will be the first humans to touch down the Moon in the 21st century. This will also put the first woman on the moon. Both of them will make history once they set foot on this side of the Moon where no human has ever been before.
NASA's Orion crew capsule, which will bring astronauts back to the Moon since the culmination of the Apollo space program, is slated for its first trip to the lunar orbit sometime after June 2020.