On Saturday, NASA’s ambitious, expensive and intricate Artemis program is poised to commence. Fifty years after the agency wrapped up the Apollo missionsArtemis I could be heading to lunar orbit, at last.

It’s been a bit of a bumpy road so far. 

Initially, Artemis I’s launch was planned for Monday, but due to an engine issue, NASA had to scrub the attempt. Then, after some deliberation, the team decided to schedule the next attempt for Saturday. Only time will tell how this weekend goes, but no matter what happens, you’ll want to follow along live to see how the story unfolds. CNET will have all the details (and will host a livestream!) right here. 

To be clear, this liftoff won’t have astronauts onboard — but there’s a lot riding on its success, including the prospect of landing people on the moon sometime in the near future. (That’s planned for 2025). Come launch day, Artemis I’s 32-story, tangerine-colored rocket will blast off from Earth and propel a pointy, relatively small, white spacecraft named Orion into lunar orbit. 

Orion is filled to the brim with things like Amazon Alexa, TV character Shaun the Sheep, mannequins, miniature satellites and most importantly, tons of navigation and data collection equipment. These special instruments within Orion will track vital information about the spacecraft’s trajectory, safety, radiation absorption (and much more) that’ll essentially map out the routes of future missions — missions with a human crew like Artemis II and 2025’s Artemis III. Think of Artemis I as a crucial flight test and proof-of-principle mission.

A flawless launch could mark the beginning of NASA’s modern moon exploration years. It’s going to be a tense day with a nail-biting countdown, especially considering the first failed launch attempt, but one also shrouded in an air of wonder and excitement. In other words, it’s going to be huge. 

Artemis I rocket and Orion capsule on the launchpad. In the foreground, a banner says

The “We Are Going” banner, seen near the Artemis I rocket on the launchpad, is signed by NASA workers involved in the moon mission.

NASA/Joel Kowsky

How to watch the Artemis I launch

On Saturday, NASA plans to host a live broadcast of the Artemis I event and you’ll be able to watch on the NASA app, NASA website or NASA TV directly. 

The launch window itself opens at 11:17 a.m. PT / 2:17 p.m. ET, and it’ll stay open for two hours. Somewhere within that range, the mega moon rocket, which NASA calls the “most powerful rocket in the world,” will head toward the stars. 

Here’s that window start time around the world. Get your snacks ready.

  • USA: 11:17 a.m. PT / 2:17 p.m. ET
  • Brazil: 3:17 p.m. (Federal District)
  • UK: 7:17 p.m.
  • South Africa: 8:17 p.m.
  • Russia: 9:17 p.m. (Moscow)
  • UAE: 10:17 p.m. 
  • India: 11:47 p.m.
  • China: Sunday, 2:17 a.m.
  • Japan: Sunday, 3:17 a.m.
  • Australia: Sunday, 4:17 a.m. (AEST)

You’ll also find all the action live on CNET Highlights, our YouTube channel, by simply clicking play just below. It’s that easy.

The road to launching Artemis I

Already, NASA has started to heighten anticipation for Artemis I’s journey to space — evident by the incredible turnout for Monday morning’s attempt. Briefings were held daily until Monday’s liftoff attempt, for instance, about things like the role of industry in advancing human exploration, lunar mission management, the way Artemis is poised to lead to Mars excursions and just general road-to-the-stars commentary.

A full schedule of those meetings, streamed on NASA TV, can be found here.

Against a midnight blue sky, a full moon is visible toward the top left of the image and NASA's orange Artemis I rocket and Orion spacecraft set up in the foreground.

A full Moon is in view from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 14, 2022. 

NASA/Cory Huston

You might also want to prepare yourself for celebrity appearances by Jack Black, Chris Evans and Keke Palmer as well as performances of The Star-Spangled Banner by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock and America the Beautiful by The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yo-Yo Ma, the latter conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. What. A. Party.

Artemis I’s launch sequence

If you’re into the technical details, here’s the game plan for Artemis I. 

In a way, liftoff is the easiest part. And I’m not exaggerating. 

Team SLS is up first. 

After countdown, the SLS will ascend through Earth’s atmosphere. In two minutes, all its solid propellant, located in the rocket’s boosters, will be consumed and those boosters will be jettisoned. After 8 minutes, all its liquid fuel, located in the core stage, will be used and that stage will be jettisoned. Then, for about the next 18 minutes, Orion and the rocket’s upper stage will take a lap around our planet all alone. Once that’s complete, Orion will take about 12 minutes to deploy its solar arrays and get off battery power.

At that point, as Sarafin puts it, the rocket has done its job. Orion is en route.

This diagram shows the stages at which the SLS rocket's stages will jettison off and Orion will propel forward during ascent.

A diagram showing what Artemis I’s ascent will look like. 

Screenshot by Monisha Ravisetti/NASA

Team Orion steps up to the plate. 

“There’s really no time to catch our breath,” Rick LaBrode, lead Artemis I flight director, said during an Aug. 5 press conference. Orion’s trajectory pretty much relies of a multitude of precise maneuvering that’ll take it along the complex path outlined below. 

A diagram showing how Orion will fly to the moon, around the moon and back. Several gravity assists are present during the journey and some checkpoints are outlined where translunar injections and departures will occur.

Orion’s trajectory around the moon and back is outlined here. Along the way, 10 cubesats will be deployed. 

Screenshot by Monisha Ravisetti/NASA

Eventually, the craft will approach the lunar surface, getting as close as just 60 miles above ground, and conduct a bunch of science experiments to test things like lunar gravity, radiation danger, and maybe even snap a few pics like a re-creation of 1968’s Earthrise. The satellites inside Orion will deploy along the way, capture some physics data, and once all is said and done, the brave little spacecraft will return to our planet and splashdown off the coast of San Diego.

Pick up Orion, extract the data and Artemis I is complete. The whole thing is expected to take six weeks.

If NASA manages to avoid any blips along the way, it won’t be long before we find ourselves scouring the internet for info on how to watch the launch of Artemis II. And far into the future, perhaps we’ll reflect on Monday as we sit back and watch a rocket barrel toward not just the moon, but Mars.

OK, I’m getting ahead of myself. 

For now, you can admire the Artemis I SLS rocket topped with Orion chilling on the launchpad. Here’s a constant livestream of it during its final moments on Earth.

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