After many years delays and several false starts, the wait was finally over: NASA’s massive Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule took off at 1:48 a.m. Eastern time, heading towards historic flight to the Moon. Crowds watch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the thunder of NASA rockets can once again be heard at the same launch pad where the space shuttles and the Apollo missions began. sent into space.
The 212-foot rocket, consisting of an orange core stage and two white solid boosters, was mounted on a ground structure known as a mobile launcher, as in previous tests. As the boosters ignite, the rocket rises above a fiery explosion, then it quickly leaves the launch tower, and then begins to ascend into the atmosphere, a brilliant orange trail behind it. “The plane took off for Artemis 1,” declared Derrol Nail, a NASA live stream commentator. “We rise together, back to the moon and beyond.”
After the two-minute mark, the SLS boosters burned up their propellant and fell. About eight minutes after launch, the core-stage rocket had used up its fuel and also separated. That leaves the unassembled Orion capsule still attached to the upper-stage rocket and the service module, provided by the European Space Agency, the spacecraft’s main power and engine supplier. Orion continued at more than 16,000 miles per hour, and minutes later, it deployed the solar array.
If the mission goes according to plan, after about two hours, the capsule will detach from the upper deck of the SLS. As it drifted away, the upper deck would scatter — in waves — 10 small spacecraft called CubeSats, sending them out to proceed. small mission around the moon, Mars, and a near-Earth asteroid.
Meanwhile, Orion will continue to fly, taking about 10 days to reach the moon, where it will spend several weeks in what is known as a “retrograde orbit”, balancing the gravity of the Earth and the moon and not consumes a lot of fuel. to maintain. While orbiting the moon, it will take pictures of the Earth and its satellites—including an image like the symbol Photo “Earth Rises” perform the Apollo 8 mission—and collect space radiation data, so that scientists can learn more about potential health risks to astronauts during extended voyages outside of Earth’s protective atmosphere.
At the end of November, Orion will leave that orbit and cruise 40,000 miles beyond the moon—the farthest distance a human-capable spacecraft has ever traveled—before returning to its past on Earth. en route to Earth in early December. Its 26-day voyage will end when it parachutes into the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles off the coast of San Diego, possibly on December 11.
Members of the Artemis mission team are excited that the moment has come—and also nervous about the first major moonshot since the Apollo era. “I am excited to launch this series of Artemis missions to return to the moon and essentially start a new era that represents the exploration of deeper space and someday to Mars. I’m excited to watch that rocket turn night into day tonight as it takes off. It’s going to be spectacular,” said NASA astronaut Christina Koch, earlier on Tuesday before launch. There will be many scientific, economic and other benefits for artemis programThanks to NASA’s commercial and international partnerships, she said, and that will help inspire the next generation of space explorers.