After months of anticipation, the historic Artemis I expedition launched in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
The significant occasion marked the start of a mission that will send an unmanned spacecraft around the moon, enabling NASA to send astronauts back to the lunar surface for the first time in fifty years.At 1:47 a.m. ET, the Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket fired its engines, reaching a height of 322 feet (98 meters).
To lift itself off the launch pad in Florida and into the air, it released up to 9 million pounds (4.1 million kilograms) of thrust. It then streaked brilliantly across the night sky.Orion is currently soaring through orbit with just one powerful engine after the SLS rocket burned through millions of pounds of fuel before parts of the rocket started breaking away.
Over the following few hours, that engine will do two strong burns to correctly position the spacecraft toward the moon.
Then, about two hours after launch, the rocket engine will also detach, leaving Orion to continue its journey in free flight.NASA engineers will closely monitor the spacecraft’s performance throughout the journey.The group will assess Orion’s functionality and be prepared to support its first crewed voyage to lunar orbit, which is presently planned for 2024.
With 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rocket that propelled NASA’s moon landings in the 20th century, this mission also serves as the SLS rocket’s first launch, making it the most powerful rocket to ever reach Earth’s orbit.
Prior to the launch on Wednesday morning, the mission team experienced a number of setbacks, including technical difficulties with the mega moon rocket and two hurricanes that passed through the launch site.However, on Tuesday, the tanks were filled despite leak issues that halted fueling hours before launch.
NASA had to abandon earlier takeoff attempts because of the SLS rocket’s superchilled liquid hydrogen fueling, which proved to be one of the main problems.