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NASA's lunar mobile launcher is one step closer to sending its first spacecraft to the moon.
The launcher is now in final testing for Artemis 1 — an uncrewed test trip around the moon of the Orion spacecraft slated for 2020 or so — after making its last solo trip to the Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39B on June 27. The launcher will remain at the pad for two months before going inside the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to join the Orion capsule and its rocket, called the Space Launch System (SLS).
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One day, this same system could launch humans towards the moon. The Trump administration recently tasked NASA with landing humans there by 2024, and the agency is also planning a Gateway space station for future lunar missions. But first, engineers are putting the mobile launcher through a series of tests on the pad and in the VAB in preparation for these moon milestones.
Related: Can NASA Really Put Astronauts on the Moon in 2024?
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"The mobile launcher has [already] gone through a series of critical tests in the VAB," Dan Florez, NASA test director with exploration ground systems at Kennedy, said in a statement. "We've conducted umbilical arm swing tests, environmental control system tests, hydraulic testing, nitrogen and helium testing and electrical tests to verify commands from the Launch Control Center are properly communicating with the ground support equipment and umbilicals."
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