Practice makes perfect, especially for a mission to the moon.
At Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, the four person crew of NASA's Artemis II mission had a first chance to practice what their launch day will feel like. In what's called a dry dress rehearsal, the astronauts got suited up and took their new electric crew transportation vehicles for a spin to the launch pad.
One missing component: the agency's massive 320-foot Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule. Since the rocket is still in production at other NASA facilities nationwide, Wednesday's practice run focused on preparing ground team support of the crew.
Slated to launch from KSC as early as November of next year, Artemis II — the first lunar human spaceflight mission since 1972 — will send the four crew members on a trip around the moon and back deeper into space than any mission ever before.
NASA Artemis II: Launch day dress rehearsal
This week's launch day rehearsal marked only the second time the prime crew of the Artemis II lunar mission has traveled to KSC since being announced in April.
Last month, NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and the Canadian Space Agency's Jeremy Hansen got their first chance to visit the Orion capsule in production at KSC, which will serve as their home for the planned 10-day mission around the moon and back.
This week, the squad of four spent time in KSC's Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, which houses the astronaut crew quarters and suitup room. After being outfitted in their iconic orange suits Wednesday morning, the crew loaded up into a pair of electric crew transport vehicles that were delivered to KSC earlier this summer by California-based Canoo Technologies.
Rocket launch schedule: Upcoming Florida launches and landings
The battery-powered vans then shuttled the quartet across the space center to Launch Complex 39B, where the 380-foot Mobile Launcher 1 awaited.
Even without an SLS rocket to load into, the Artemis II crew practiced ascending the tower and arriving at the crew access arm, which will serve as the walkway to the Orion capsule on launch day.
“As we prepare for launch, it is critical for us to not only understand our systems and how they operate individually, but to be fully aware of how they perform together,” NASA's Shawn Quinn, Exploration Ground Systems Program manager, said in a release. “These tests enable the team to demonstrate new integrated processing and launch capabilities, as well as define operational procedures and schedules to ensure the team is ready for launch day.”
NASA moon mission preparations across Kennedy Space Center
All NASA Artemis missions liftoff from pad 39B, which means that ground support systems must be able to support multiple launches of the SLS — the world's most powerful rocket.
Wednesday's rehearsal is just the first in a series of Artemis II testing planned across KSC.
So far, teams have completed restoration work on the mobile launcher's elevators — which were damaged after the launch of the uncrewed Artemis I mission last fall — and constructing a new hydrogen sphere that will hold 1.4 million gallons of liquid hydrogen, which will be used for loading propellant into the SLS's core stage.
With the dry dress rehearsal now out of the way, teams can begin to make headway on the remaining tasks:
Testing out high-speed cameras across the launch pad
Flowing propellants into and draining them out of the mobile launcher
Conducting water deluge tests, which will flood the launch deck with approximately 400,000 gallons of water to suppress sound and pressure produced by the SLS's 8.8 million pounds of thrust
Practice crew emergency exit procedures
Run launch day simulations in the Launch Control Center firing room
Here's everything to know about NASA's Artemis
Artemis is NASA's flagship attempt to return U.S. astronauts to the moon and establish a long-term human presence as a stepping stone before venturing onto Mars. The successful uncrewed Artemis I demo flight which launched last November from KSC, carved a path for Artemis II.
The first crewed lunar mission planned since 1972 is slated to launch sometime late next year.
If the Artemis II mission goes off without a hitch, NASA plans to launch Artemis III about a year later. For that mission, up to four astronauts will travel to lunar orbit in an Orion capsule and land on the lunar surface in a SpaceX Starship vehicle.
The astronauts for that mission haven't yet been chosen, but NASA has said it will include the first woman to land on the lunar surface.
Meanwhile, in Texas, SpaceX's Starship remains grounded while the company continues to work with the Federal Aviation Administration for approval to try a second test flight after the first in April ended in an explosion over the Gulf of Mexico.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: NASA's Artemis II astronauts complete launch day practice at KSC