NASA astronauts buzz Artemis 1 SLS rocket in incredible jet flyby (photos)

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Being an astronaut has never looked this fun.

A group of NASA astronauts shared an incredible series of images showing them performing a flyby of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket while it sits waiting on the launch pad ahead of its scheduled Artemis 1 launch on Aug. 29. 

The images, shared on Twitter by astronauts Andrew Morgan and Reid Wiseman and astronaut candidate Christina Birch, show four NASA T-38 trainer jets flying in formation recently above both the 322-foot-tall (98 meters) SLS megarocket at Launch Complex 39B and the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates

“This week we flew over @NASAArtemis, thanking the @nasa centers across the country that put this Moon rocket on @NASAKennedy‚Äôs pad and celebrating the upcoming test flight!” Morgan, who flew on three missions aboard the International Space Station, wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab) on Thursday (Aug. 25). 

A pair of NASA T-38 jets fly past the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

Wiseman, current head of NASA’s astronaut office, was much less verbose. “We. Are. Going! #Artemis1,” reads Wiseman’s tweet (opens in new tab) of the flyby image published Wednesday (Aug. 24).

T-38 jets fly past NASA’s SLS rocket at Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

Birch added that the formation of two-seater T-38s included fellow astronaut candidates Jack Hathaway and Nichole “Vapor” Ayers.

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NASA has used Northrop T-38 Talon jets as training aircraft and chase planes for over five decades. The twin-seat trainer can fly at supersonic speeds up to Mach 1.6 and reach altitudes up to 40,000 feet, higher than most commercial airliners. “The T-38 is a great aircraft for what we need at NASA because it’s fast, it’s high-performance and it’s very simple,” retired NASA astronaut and former International Space Station Commander Terry Virts said in a NASA statement in 2011 (opens in new tab). “It’s safe and it’s known. So compared to other airplanes, it’s definitely one of the best.”

Four T-38 Talons fly by NASA’s Space Launch System Block 1 rocket at Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

As of Thursday (Aug. 25), the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron has predicted a 70% chance (opens in new tab) of favorable weather on Monday (Aug. 29) for the launch of Artemis 1, which will send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a journey to lunar orbit and back. 

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