New picture, but a familiar face.
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer took this image of Earth’s natural satellite, the subject of exciting news this week, from the seven-windowed cupola of the International Space Station.
Down on Earth, the rocket that will launch NASA’s Orion spacecraft with the European Service Module to the Moon has been moved to the launchpad in Florida, USA, for its first full test before the Artemis I launch later this year.
The Space Launch Systems rocket (SLS), aka the Moon rocket, left the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at around 23:00 CET (22:00 GMT) on 17 March on a 6.5 km trip to Launchpad LC39B.
Traveling at a maximum speed of just 1.3 km/h, the 6.5-km voyage took 12 hours to complete on a specially designed crawler vehicle.
In the preceding months the Orion spacecraft with European Service Module had been placed on top of the rocket.
The first Artemis mission will send Orion to the Moon and back, farther than any human-rated spacecraft has travelled before. ESA’s European Service Module is the powerhouse that fuels and propels Orion and provides everything needed to keep astronauts alive with water, oxygen, power and temperature control.
Matthias posted this image to social media, saying “The Moon. So close, yet so far – but not for much longer!” With the rocket out on the launch pad, NASA and ESA are a step closer to our destination.
Matthias added, “As I took these Moon shots from Cupola, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would feel like to fly in Orion to the Gateway, propelled by the European Service Module.”
It’ll be a while before that happens. In the meantime, Matthias has a lot to keep him busy during his Cosmic Kiss mission, including his first spacewalk next Wednesday 23 March. Alongside NASA’s Raja Chari, he will have a variety of tasks, including installing a power & data cable for Europe’s external science platform Bartolomeo.