NASA’s Artemis I Rocket Launches Orion For Moon Mission

NASA celebrated the successful launch of it’s Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world, as it seeks to return once again to the moon later this decade.

The US space agency announced the successful launch using just one word – ‘liftoff’. It comes after NASA in August called off the highly anticipated first flight of its Space Launch System following a series of problems with fuelling procedures.

The launch of Artemis I is the first integrated test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the ground systems at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft launches on the Artemis I flight test, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Artemis I mission is the first integrated flight test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and ground systems. SLS and Orion launched at 1:47 a.m. EST, from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Unmanned mission

The Artemis I mission is part of the broader Artemis programme intended to send astronauts back to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

The unmanned test launch is planned to send the Orion lander spacecraft around the Moon and then return it to Earth, at which time Orion’s heatshield will be tested during re-entry.

The spacecraft is intended to enter the atmosphere at 32 times the speed of sound, 38,000km/h (24,000mph), and is to reach more than 4,000F (2,200C).

NASA’s moon-to-Mars Artemis program is the successor to the Apollo lunar project of the 1960s and 1970s.

In the decades following that, US and Russian space flight endeavours shifted away from the Moon, to low-Earth orbit with space shuttles and the International Space Station.

The plan for Artemis missions is to return astronauts to the moon’s surface as early as 2025, although that timeframe is expected to slip by a few years.

When astronauts return to the moon, it will be the first time that humans have walked on the surface since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The goal is eventually to established a lunar base on the moon, before pushing out to Mars sometime in the late 2030s.

Artemis I

And now on Wednesday NASA celebrated the launch that will signal the beginning of its mission to return to the moon.

NASA said its Space Launch System (SLS) launched, carrying an uncrewed Orion, at 1:47 am EST Wednesday from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“The launch is the first leg of a mission in which Orion is planned to travel approximately 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and return to Earth over the course of 25.5 days,” said NASA. “Known as Artemis I, the mission is a critical part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which the agency explores for the benefit of humanity. It’s an important test for the agency before flying astronauts on the Artemis II mission.”

“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.

After reaching its initial orbit, Orion deployed its solar arrays and engineers began performing checkouts of the spacecraft’s systems.

About 1.5 hours into flight, the rocket’s upper stage engine successfully fired for approximately 18 minutes to give Orion the big push needed to send it out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon.

“It’s taken a lot to get here, but Orion is now on its way to the Moon,” said Jim Free, NASA deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This successful launch means NASA and our partners are on a path to explore farther in space than ever before for the benefit of humanity.”

“The Space Launch System rocket delivered the power and performance to send Orion on its way to the Moon,” added Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager. “With the accomplishment of the first major milestone of the mission, Orion will now embark on the next phase to test its systems and prepare for future missions with astronauts.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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