Taking off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Orion capsule will take the four selected astronauts on a four-day trip to the moon taking them around the satellite’s famed dark side. The astronauts will reach a point approximately 6,400 miles beyond the far side of the Moon. Instead of using a propulsion system, the return journey will rely on the gravitational pull between the Earth and the moon to come back and eventually splash down in the Pacific ocean off of the San Diego coastline. NASA is calling it a hybrid free return trajectory.
Training for the Artemis II will likely begin this summer, while the mission lift-off is slated for late 2024. Building on the success of the uncrewed Artemis I mission in December last year, Artemis II will also mark the most comprehensive test of the Orion capsule and its suitability for subsequent missions to the moon, and beyond. As for why NASA is going back to the moon after five decades, the agency says the Artemis mission is about “scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers.” Following the Artemis II mission, its successor will take mankind back to the moon’s surface, while future missions are eyeing a journey to Mars.