HAMPTON, Va. - A big step in mankind's next giant leap is only a couple of months away.
NASA Langley Research Center's Associate Director for the Artemis project says a test rocket will launch in April or May.
"We're going to launch this rocket with no astronauts. We're going to launch it from Kennedy Space Center and we're going to take it to the Moon. It's going to go farther than we've ever been before," Jeremy Pinier told News 3 during a Thursday visit from NASA leadership and members of Congress.
NASA's Artemis mission intends to land the next man and first woman on the Moon by 2025 and local scientists and engineers at Langley have been vital in preparing the vehicle set to get the astronauts in the Orion spacecraft from Earth to the lunar surface.
"We've got a team at Langley that's been working the Artemis program and specifically the space launch system for over ten years now," said Pinier. "Hundreds of technicians, engineers, researchers, scientists."
According to Langley, the center's contributions will aid throughout the mission, from Entry, Descent and Landing to radiation protection to keeping the Orion spacecraft in one piece as it launches from the Earth at several thousand miles per hour.
"The air loads want to crush this rocket like a soda can and we want to make sure that doesn't happen so we need to understand what the air flow is on this rocket," said Pinier. "If anything bad happens, we've got the capability of pulling these astronauts to safety."
Pinier tells News 3 that once the unmanned mission is complete, a manned test flight, Artemis II, will occur in 2023.
The Artemis III mission to the lunar surface is scheduled for 2025 with NASA aiming to use the trip as a means to begin setting up a base of operations on the Moon, allowing for further space travel to Mars and beyond.