Lift off! NASA successfully launched Artemis I from the Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday morning to take Orion to the moon. The rocket lit up the sky and blazed the road for mankind to return to the moon.
At precisely 1:47 a.m. Eastern time marks the resumption of the space agency’s long-awaited and contentious mission to return humans to the moon after the Apollo program ended in 1972.
“What an incredible sight to see NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft launch together for the first time. This uncrewed flight test will push Orion to the limits in the rigors of deep space, helping us prepare for human exploration on the Moon and, ultimately, Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
“Took a long time coming to get here,” and “We still have a long way to go.”
The Space Launch System (SLS) overcame both years of delays—in 2011, NASA projected a first SLS flight in 2017–as well as countdown hiccups such as a leaking hydrogen valve near the pad that required tightening by a “red crew” and a faulty Ethernet switch at a nearby radar that required replacement.
The Artemis mission is named after Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology, who is known as the “Goddess of the Hunt.”
SLS has surpassed Falcon Heavy as the world’s most powerful rocket, capable of lifting almost 105 tons to low Earth orbit, compared to 70 tons for the SpaceX vehicle that first launched in February 2018.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft will contribute to the completion of the project to transport astronauts to the moon. It provides electricity, water, oxygen, and nitrogen, as well as maintaining the spacecraft’s temperature and orientation.
Orion’s mission will span 25 days and half days, with the capsule splashing down on December 11. The next time the Orion is launched, it will be carrying astronauts on a voyage to lunar orbit.
It would still be a long journey, since NASA expects Artemis II to launch in 2023 and Artemis III to land on the moon in 2025. However, it preserves history and answers the question of who will be the next human to set foot on the moon.