SCIENCE

Artemis I mission takes flight in historic leap forward for NASA’s moon program

Nov 16, 2022, 7:15 AM | Updated: 10:14 am

(CNN) — The historic Artemis I mission took flight in the early hours of Wednesday morning after months of anticipation. The milestone event kicked off a journey that 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 towering, 322-foot-tall (98-meter-tall) Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket lit its engines at 1:47 a.m. ET. It emitted up to 9 million pounds (4.1 million kilograms) of thrust to haul itself off the launchpad in Florida and into the air, streaking vibrantly across the night sky.

Atop the rocket was the Orion spacecraft, a gumdrop-shaped capsule that broke away from the rocket after reaching space. Orion is designed to carry humans, but its passengers for this test mission are of the inanimate variety, including some mannequins collecting vital data to help future live crews.

The SLS rocket expended millions of pounds of fuel before parts of the rocket began breaking away, and Orion was left to soar through orbit with just one large engine. That engine then set off two powerful burns to put the spacecraft on the correct trajectory toward the moon. Then, about two hours after liftoff, the rocket engine also fell away, leaving Orion to free-fly for the remainder of its journey.

Orion is expected to log roughly 1.3 million miles (2 million kilometers), taking a path that will lead it farther than any other spacecraft designed for human flight has traveled, according to NASA. After orbiting the moon, Orion will make its return trip, completing its journey in about 25.5 days. The capsule is then scheduled to splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on December 11, when recovery teams will be waiting nearby to haul it to safety.

Throughout the mission, NASA engineers will be keeping a close eye on the spacecraft’s performance. The team will evaluate whether Orion performs as intended and will be ready to support its first crewed mission to lunar orbit, which is currently scheduled for 2024.

This mission also marks the debut flight of the SLS rocket as the most powerful ever to reach Earth’s orbit, boasting 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rocket that powered NASA’s 20th century moon landings.

And this mission is just the first in what’s expected to be a long series of increasingly difficult Artemis missions as NASA works toward its goal of establishing a permanent outpost at the moon. Artemis II will follow a similar path as Artemis I but will have astronauts on board. Artemis III, slated for later this decade, is expected to land a woman and a person of color on the lunar surface for the first time.

A long road to liftoff

The mission team encountered a number of setbacks in the lead-up to Wednesday morning’s launch, including technical issues with the mega moon rocket and two hurricanes that have rolled through the launch site.

Fueling the SLS rocket with superchilled liquid hydrogen proved to be one main issue that forced NASA to wave off earlier takeoff attempts, but on Tuesday, the tanks were filled despite leak issues that halted fueling hours before launch.

Read more: The big numbers that make the Artemis I mission a monumental feat

To address that problem, NASA deployed what it calls a “red crew” — a group of personnel specially trained to make repairs while the rocket is loaded with propellant. They tightened some nuts and bolts to stop the fuel leaks.

“The rocket, it’s alive, it’s creaking, its making venting noises — it’s pretty scary. So … my heart was pumping. My nerves were going but, yeah, we showed up today. When we walked up the stairs. We were ready to rock and roll,” red crew member Trent Annis said in an interview on NASA TV after launch.

Other NASA personnel at the launch site’s firing room, where agency officials make crucial decisions in the hours and moments before liftoff, celebrated a victory.

“Well for once I might be speechless,” said Artemis I launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the first woman to hold such a role.

“I have talked a lot about appreciating the moment that you’re in,” Blackwell-Thompson said in remarks to the engineers in the firing room. “And we have worked hard as a team. You guys have worked hard as a team to this moment. This is your moment.”

Blackwell-Thompson then declared it was time for tie-cutting, a NASA tradition in which launch operators snip off the ends of their business ties. Blackwell-Thompson’s was cut by shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach, and she pledged to the others in the room, “I’ll stay all night if I have to. It’ll be my pleasure to cut ties.”

Several astronauts were on-site for the launch, and NASA administrator Bill Nelson told reporters that he watched liftoff from a nearby rooftop with a few of the them.

“There were a bunch there that would like to be on that rocket,” Nelson said.

INTERACTIVE: A visual tour of the most powerful rocket ever built


 

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Science

The skull of the 100 million-year-old plesiosaur found in Queensland, Australia. (Queensland Museum...
Kathleen Magramo, CNN

100 million-year-old plesiosaur skeleton discovery ‘could hold the key’ to prehistoric research

The discovery of a giant 100 million-year-old marine reptile's skeleton in Australia has been hailed by researchers as a breakthrough that may provide vital clues about prehistoric life.
15 hours ago
NASA's Orion spacecraft beamed back close-up photos of the moon and Earth on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. ...
MARCIA DUNN AP Aerospace Writer

NASA capsule flies over Apollo moon landing sites, heads home

NASA's Orion capsule is on its way home from the moon to wrap up a three-week test flight. The capsule and its test dummies came within 80 miles of the far side of the moon Monday.
3 days ago
Ultraprocessed foods, like burgers and fries, could raise your risk for cognitive decline if it's m...
Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Dementia risk may increase if you’re eating these foods, study says

If more than 20% of your daily calorie intake is ultraprocessed foods, however, you may be raising your risk for cognitive decline, a new study found.
3 days ago
An artist's life reconstruction of the bird-like Cretaceous Period dinosaur Natovenator polydontus,...
Zoe Sottile, CNN

A new species of dinosaur might have dived like a duck to catch its prey

A new study found evidence at least one species of dinosaur may have been an adept swimmer, diving into the water like a duck to hunt its prey.
4 days ago
FILE - This undated artist rending provided by the U.S. Air Force shows a U.S. Air Force graphic of...
TARA COPP Associated Press

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

The United States' newest nuclear stealth bomber is making its public debut after years of secret development. The new bomber is part of the Pentagon's answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China.
6 days ago
Space Dynamics Laboratory CAPSTONE CubeSat...
Cary Schwanitz

Space radio built at USU is now orbiting the Moon

A deep space radio name Iris and built by the Space Dynamics Labaratory at Utah State University has been in lunar orbit since November 13.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Artemis I mission takes flight in historic leap forward for NASA’s moon program