NASA Launches Most Powerful Space Rocket in History, Artemis I, to the Moon

By: Michelle Liew

The American space agency NASA launched the Artemis I Moon mission from the modernized Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Wednesday morning. The historic Artemis 1 mission took flight in the early hours after months of anticipation. The flight is a milestone which will send an uncrewed spacecraft around the moon, paving the way for NASA to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century.

The Orion spacecraft’s first views of Earth were shared online more than nine hours into the journey, with the vehicle about 57,000 miles away from our planet on its way to the moon.

The last time a spacecraft designed to carry humans to the moon captured a view of Earth was in 1972 with the Apollo mission.

“On behalf of all the men and women across our great nation who have worked to bring this hardware together to make this day possible, and for the Artemis generation, this is for you,” the launch director, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said after the lift off.

The primary goal of Artemis I is to demonstrate the Orion system in a spaceflight environment and ensure safe re-entry, descent, drop at sea and recovery prior to the first crewed flight using Artemis II.

No astronauts are aboard the Artemis 1 test flight, but rather three mannequins and a Snoopy soft toy gauging radiation levels and testing new life-preservation systems and equipment designed for the next generation of long-duration human spaceflight.

The mission will take 25 days in space and the Orion capsule will fall into the ocean on December 11.

Artemis II, which is scheduled for 2024 will carry four astronauts for the same mission.

Meanwhile, Artemis III is scheduled to carry two astronauts to the surface of the Moon likely in 2025.

The launch of Artemis I in late August and early September was delayed due to technical problems. Hurricane Ian also prevented launch attempts in late September and early October.

Artemis I will embark on a journey of 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers).

Orion will enter an elliptical lunar orbit that will see the spacecraft 62 miles (99 kilometers) above the surface of the Moon and about 40,000 miles (64,373 kilometers) beyond it.

The SLS is the largest rocket ever built, standing 322 feet (98 meters) tall with 8.8 million pounds (3.9 million kg) of thrust.