July 21st, 1969 was a historic day in the history of mankind. It was the day that the first human being set foot on the moon. The event was perhaps the most ambitious voyage undertaken by humans that officially etched our status as a space-faring people. On the 50th anniversary of this historic day, NASA announced that the Orion Crew capsule is ready for its first trip to the lunar orbit. Not only will Orion orbit the moon, but it is also intended to take human beings back to the moon.
The launch is set to happen in the latter half of the next year. However, the first launch won’t be a crewed one. The Orion capsule will be launched into space by the brand new Space Launch System (SLS) and would be spending about three weeks in space, including six days orbiting the moon before returning. This mission will be carried out to test the feasibility of the Orion capsule as well as the Space Launch System. Furthermore, this mission will also test the heat shielding of Orion, as it needs to make a successful re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The SLS is a super-heavy expendable launch vehicle that is being developed for this purpose.
Both the SLS and the Orion capsule are part of the larger Artemis program, which aims to put humans on the moon in the next decade and act as a first step toward establishing a sustainable and permanent human presence on the moon. Moreover, it would also be a foundational step towards a manned mission to Mars.