Editor’s Note — Turn to CNN for live coverage from Kennedy Space Center in Florida starting on Saturday morning through the Monday morning launch. Space correspondents Kristin Fisher and Rachel Crane will bring us moment by moment reporting from the launch along with a team of experts.
NASA is gearing up for its most consequential launch in decades, launching a rocket built to carry humans on an uncrewed test flight around the moon. It’s the first major step for the space agency’s Artemis program that aims to one day return astronauts to the lunar surface.
To commemorate the inaugural moon rocket mission, called Artemis I, watch parties — official and unofficial — are popping up all over the country.
Invited guests and NASA employees take photos of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in March.
The big event, which will see NASA’s Orion crew capsule launch atop a gargantuan new rocket called the Space Launch System, or SLS, is expected to kick off on August 29 between 8:33 a.m. ET and 10:33 a.m. ET. After liftoff, it’ll be a few days before the capsule reaches its path around the moon, but there should be plenty of updates to follow during the spacecraft’s 42-day mission.
NASA allowed various groups and organizations to sign up to host official watch parties and offered up educational information for teachers.
As of Wednesday night, there were over 4,000 registered private watch parties — including events slated to take place in family homes, classrooms, schools and universities. And there were nearly 2,500 registered public watch parties slated to kick off at museums, NASA Visitor Centers, planetariums, and more, according to Patricia Moore, an Artemis outreach strategist.
NASA and others within the US government are hoping 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 the first person of color on the Moon represents a once-in-a-generation chance to inspire our young people to see themselves in space and in science, technology, engineering, and math learning,” said Cindy Marten, US Department of Education Deputy Secretary, in a statement. “We’re going to need the full spectrum of skill sets to meet the needs and challenges of the future—from physicists to welders. There is room for everyone in space.”
US Space & Rocket Center • Huntsville, Alabama
University of Arkansas • Fayetteville, Arkansas
Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex • Merritt Island, Florida
Infinity Science Center • Pearlington, Mississippi
Creative Learning Alliance Lab • Joplin, Missouri
Morehead State University • Morehead, Kentucky
Students will gather at the Space Science Center at the Star Theater in the Space Science Center, and doors will open at 7:30 a.m. ET. Note: That’s not open to members of the public.
Pro tip: Students at Morehead State University helped build a satellite that will actually be on the Artemis mission. It’ll detach from the rocket and go on to spend about a year orbiting the moon evaluating how to transport water ice. Students will be gathered at Morehead to watch the NASA livestream of the launch.
Space Center Houston • Houston, Texas
Evermore Park • Pleasant Grove, Utah
Interstellar Dreams Space Center • Reston, Virginia
Spark Central • Spokane, Washington
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the destination for SpaceX’s private high-orbit mission later this year.