NASA’s Return to the Moon Starts With Launching a 55-Pound CubeSat

NASA has grandiose plans for sending astronauts back to the moon. Those start with a microwave-size private spacecraft about to lift off.


June 26, 2022: On Sunday, NASA announced a delay of at least one day for the launch of CAPSTONE to allow more time to perform final systems checks. The article has been updated.

In the coming years, NASA will be busy at the moon.

A giant rocket will loft a capsule with no astronauts aboard around the moon and back, perhaps before the end of summer. A parade of robotic landers will drop off experiments on the moon to collect reams of scientific data, especially about water ice locked up in the polar regions. A few years from now, astronauts are to return there, more than half a century since the last Apollo moon landing.

Those are all part of NASA’s 21st-century moon program named for Artemis, who in Greek mythology was the twin sister of Apollo.

As soon as this week, a spacecraft named CAPSTONE is to launch as the first piece of Artemis to head to the moon. Compared to what is to follow, it is modest in size and scope.