NASA watch parties for the Artemis 1 mission are popping up across the country – KION546

By Jackie Wattles, CNN

NASA is preparing for its biggest launch in decades, launching a rocket designed to carry humans on an uncrewed test flight around the moon. It’s the first major step in the space agency’s Artemis program which aims to one day bring astronauts back to the lunar surface.

To commemorate the inaugural mission of the lunar rocket, called Artemis I, watchmaking evenings – official and unofficial – are multiplying throughout the country.

It tracks how space fans have commemorated other major launches, including the recent return of astronaut launches featured by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. To be clear, those trips took astronauts to and from the International Space Station, which orbits about 200 miles above the ground.

NASA’s new spacecraft, meanwhile, will make a 238,000-mile journey to the moon. It’s quite a test for Artemis II, which will have people on board and mark the first time since the mid-century Apollo program that humans have traveled so deep into our solar system. (SpaceX will also be part of the Artemis effort, with plans to build the vehicle that will land astronauts on the lunar surface during the Artemis III mission.)

The big event, which will see the launch of NASA’s Orion crew capsule atop a gargantuan new rocket called the Space Launch System, or SLS, is set to kick off on August 29 between 8:33 a.m. ET and 10:33 a.m. ET . After liftoff, it will be a few days before the capsule reaches its way around the moon, but there should be plenty of updates to follow during the spacecraft’s 42-day mission.

NASA will stream the whole thing online and host a virtual watch party along with several other online get-togethers hosted by space-focused organizations. But if you’d rather deck yourself out in your space-themed paraphernalia, pop some popcorn, and join in the festivities in person, we’ve got a state-by-state rundown of major events across the country that you can attend. (Remember there is still a pandemic going on.)

NASA and others in the US government hope the event and the hype surrounding it will inspire a new generation of aerospace aficionados.

“The Artemis mission’s goal of putting the first woman and first person of color on the Moon represents a unique chance to inspire our young people to see themselves in space and in learning about science, technology, engineering and math,” Cindy Marten, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, said in a statement. “We’re going to need the full range of skills to meet the needs and challenges of the future. , from physicists to welders, there’s room for everyone in space.


US Space and Rocket Center • Huntsville, Alabama

Starting at 6:30 a.m. ET, the US Space and Rocket Center will welcome space fans to its campus for a viewing of the Artemis launch. A big advantage? The center is home to a Saturn V rocket – NASA’s original moon rocket that powered the Apollo program. They will be showing the launch of Artemis I broadcast on a 34.5ft screen and food will be available for purchase onsite. Spatial costumes are encouraged.


University of Arkansas • Fayetteville, Arkansas

The university’s science and technology club, better known as UARK STAAR, will host a free watch party — with free breakfast — at the campus Greek Theater from 7-9 a.m. CT. The event is open to the public, although the free food is for students only.


Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex • Merritt Island, Florida

Long a prime viewing site for rocket launches, members of the public can try to grab a ticket to watch the SLS rocket and Orion capsule blast off in person at NASA’s Florida launch site. The website says tickets, which range from $99 to $250, are already sold out. But if you’re near the Space Coast, note that throngs of thousands flock to public beaches — no tickets required — to catch a glimpse of major launches.


Infinity Science Center • Pearlington, Mississippi

Stennis Space Center, a major NASA campus in Mississippi, hosts a watch the party at the nearby Infinity Science Center, and there will be an array of crafty activities. Doors open at 7 a.m. CT.


Creative Learning Alliance Lab • Joplin, Missouri

The site will begin its youth-focused party at 6:30 p.m. local time at a cost of $5 per child. For homeschooled students, the lab will also host a live monitoring party starting at 7:30 a.m. local time.


Morehead State University • Morehead, Kentucky

Students will meet at the Space Science Center in the Space Science Center’s Star Theater, and doors open at 7:30 a.m. ET. Note: This is not open to members of the public.

But Morehead has another option at the university’s student center. There are 150 places and participation will be free. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. ET.

Pro Tip: Students at Morehead State University helped build a satellite that will take part in the Artemis mission. It will detach from the rocket and spend about a year orbiting the moon evaluating how to transport water ice. Students will be gathered in Morehead to watch NASA’s live broadcast of the launch.


Houston Space Center • Houston, Texas

Doors open at 5:15 a.m. CT. There will be giveaways and other activities. Pro tip: If you’re staying after the show, the Space Center has an Artemis exhibit and is home to the newly renovated Apollo Mission Control. Houston is, after all, the home base for overseeing all NASA astronaut missions.


Evermore Park • Pleasant Grove, Utah

The Hutchings Museum Institute is hosting one of NASA’s official watch parties, complete with prizes and loot bags. It’s free with registration. The event will run from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. local time.


Interstellar Dreams Space Center • Reston, Virginia

Beginning at 8 a.m. ET, the event will take place at Wiehle Reston Station. Up to 100 people can RSVP, and registration is still open on Eventbrite.


Spark Central • Spokane, Washington

Spark Central, a Spokane-based nonprofit, will host a watch party that will take place from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. PT.

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