MANSFIELD, Ohio (WJW)-- Before it's launched around the moon, NASA's Artemis I Orion spacecraft will be traveling through Northeast Ohio.
Crowds gathered to watch as NASA's Super Guppy aircraft landed at Mansfield Lahm Airport Sunday, delivering the Orion space capsule and service module. The spacecraft will be trucked to NASA's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky on Tuesday to undergo testing under the extreme conditions it will face in space.
"About a year from now, we hope to see this vehicle going out around the moon," said NASA Astronaut Doug Wheelock, who is overseeing safety for the mission.
Artemis I is the first in a series of missions that will result in NASA landing humans on the surface of the moon by 2024 and, later, on Mars. The Artemis program will establish a lunar outpost orbiting the moon called Gateway, which will provide astronauts with access to the lunar surface to establish sustainable exploration. Through Artemis I, NASA will deploy an unmanned Orion capsule in an elliptical orbits around the moon in late 2020.
"Artemis I is going to go further than any human-rated spacecraft has ever gone. So, very, very exciting. A year from now we'll see this capsule go out around the moon," Wheelock said. "This is our next big leap out to the moon, kind of replicating the Apollo missions, except, this time, we're going to stay."
The Artemis I Orion spacecraft must first undergo testing, including more than two months in a thermal vacuum chamber at Plum Brook.
"The point of it is to put the spacecraft in a space simulation and run it to the extremes to ensure the spacecraft will be safe on its mission and that future Artemis spacecraft will be safe for humans to go to the moon," said NASA project manager Nicole Smith.
She said plans to move the massive 24 ton spacecraft more than 40 miles from Mansfield to Sandusky have been underway for more than two years. Hundreds of utility lines and poles had to be moved or replaced.
"Because of the sheer heights of this thing, we had to lift a number of power lines, trees, phone lines, you name it. There were probably over 700 utility lines that had to be moved," Smith said.
Once testing is completed in about March, Orion will be brought back to Mansfield and then returned to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will launch into space.
"We have a saying at NASA Glenn: 'It's not going to the moon until it comes to Ohio first,'" Wheelock said.