NASA may add crew to first Orion integrated launch

By Christie Zizo, Digital Media Producer
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 5:29 PM EST

When NASA launches its first integrated SLS and Orion mission next year, it may be a manned mission after all.

  • NASA to study adding crew to first SLS-Orion mission
  • Exploration Mission-1 set for late 2018
  • Was supposed to be an unmanned mission
  • RELATED: Rocket launch schedule

In late 2018 NASA is expected to launch Exploration Mission-1 from Kennedy Space Center.

The mission would be the first test for the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion capsule, but it is not supposed to be a manned mission. It's supposed to be a test mission before sending a crew out.

But NASA announced Wednesday that acting administrator Robert Lightfood has asked Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration, to start a study to decide whether it is feasible to add a crew to Exploration Mission-1. 

The mission is seen as a first step in returning U.S. astronauts to the moon, and eventually go to Mars.

The SLS and Orion would travel thousands of miles beyond the moon in a mission lasting about three weeks.

Exploration Mission-1 is expected to launch from Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 29b in late 2018.