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2023 could be a busy year for NASA and Alabama

Boeing Orbital Flight Test
(NASA/Joel Kowsky)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rollout out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 ahead of the Orbital Flight Test mission, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Orbital Flight Test with be Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The mission, currently targeted for a 6:26 a.m. EST launch on Dec. 20, will serve as an end-to-end test of the system's capabilities. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA and Boeing plan launch a new space capsule called the Starliner on its first mission carrying astronauts in 2023. The gumdrop shaped spacecraft is similar in appearance to the Orion vehicle that flew to the Moon late last year. The test flight of the Artemis rocket and the unmanned capsule, both managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. NASA says it may soon name the astronauts who will fly on Artemis-2. That flight will be a manned trip around the Moon, duplicating the historic mission of Apollo 8 over Christmas in 1968. Historians point to that particular mission as perhaps the most significant of the Apollo program, since it was the first time humans left Earth and flew somewhere else. Starliner’s job is to carry crews to and from the International Space Station. Alabama’s connection to this mission is the rocket that will carry the Boeing spacecraft. It’s an Atlas five booster built by the United Launch Alliance in Decatur. The Marshall Space Flight Center is also managing an unmanned spacecraft called OSIRIS-REX. That vehicle is expected to return rock samples from an asteroid called Bennu later this year.

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