NASA launches the Artemis I moon mission in the early hours of Wednesday morning, after months of waiting. The important event was the start of a trip that will send an unmanned spacecraft around the moon. This will make it possible for NASA to send people to the moon’s surface for the first time in 50 years.
More than nine hours into the trip, when the Orion spacecraft was about 57,000 miles from Earth and on its way to the moon, the first amazing views of Earth were shown.
Since the last Apollo mission in 1972, this is the first time a spacecraft meant to take people to the moon has taken a picture of Earth.
NASA launches Artemis I moon mission
At 1:47 a.m. ET, the engines of the 322-foot-tall (98-meter-tall) Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket were turned on. It used up to 9 million pounds (4.1 million kilogrammes) of thrust to get off the launchpad in Florida and into the sky, where it lit up the night sky with a bright streak.
The Orion spacecraft, which looked like a gumdrop and broke away from the rocket when it got to space, was on top of the rocket. Orion is made to carry people, but for this test mission, it is only carrying inanimate objects. Some of these are mannequins that are collecting important data to help future crews of real people.
Before the SLS rocket started breaking apart, it burned through millions of pounds of fuel. This left Orion to fly through space with just one big engine. Then, that engine did two strong burns to put the spacecraft on the right path to the moon. The rocket engine also fell off about two hours after launch, leaving Orion to fly on its own for the rest of its trip.
While #Artemis I is uncrewed, a manikin named "Commander Moonikin Campos" is among the test devices flying aboard @NASA_Orion. The name honors NASA engineer Arturo Campos, who helped bring the Apollo 13 crew safely home to Earth. https://t.co/B5x3fSQQ74 pic.twitter.com/2gs2eC7pWi
— NASA (@NASA) November 16, 2022
NASA says that Orion will travel about 1.3 million miles, which is about 2 million kilometres. This is farther than any other spacecraft made for humans has gone. After going around the moon, Orion will turn around and head back to Earth. The whole trip will take about 25.5 days. The capsule will then land in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on December 11. At that time, recovery teams will be ready to pick it up and bring it back to safety.
NASA engineers will keep a close eye on how the spacecraft works during the whole mission. The team will check to see if Orion works as planned and if it will be ready for its first crewed mission to lunar orbit, which is set to happen in 2024.
Mission Time: 1 days, 2 hrs, 5 min
Orion is 121,949 miles from Earth, 173,277 miles from the Moon, cruising at 3,076 miles per hour.
P: (-121391, -32858, -6119)
V: (-2675, -1419, -540)
O: 355º, 331.4º, 316.1º
What's this? https://t.co/voR4yGy2mg #TrackArtemis pic.twitter.com/vSGYlv5jj4
— Orion Spacecraft (@NASA_Orion) November 17, 2022
This mission is also the first flight of the SLS rocket, which is the most powerful one to ever reach Earth’s orbit. It has 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rocket, which NASA used to land on the moon in the 20th century.
This is just the first of a long series of Artemis missions that are expected to get harder and harder as NASA works toward its goal of putting a permanent outpost on the moon. Artemis II will go in the same direction as Artemis I, but astronauts will be on board. With Artemis III, which is set to happen later this decade, a woman and a person of colour will land on the moon’s surface for the first time.
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A long road to liftoff
Before Wednesday morning’s launch, the mission team had to deal with a number of problems, such as problems with the mega moon rocket and two hurricanes that hit the launch site.
Missed last night's #Artemis I launch?
— NASA (@NASA) November 16, 2022
Fueling the SLS rocket with super-cold liquid hydrogen was one of the main reasons NASA had to cancel earlier launch attempts. However, NASA was able to fill the tanks on Tuesday, even though leaks had stopped fueling hours before launch.
The big numbers that make the Artemis I mission a huge success
NASA sent out what it calls a “red crew” to fix the problem. This is a group of people who have been trained to make repairs while the rocket is full of fuel. To stop the fuel from leaking, they tightened some nuts and bolts.
“The rocket is alive. It creaks and makes sounds like it’s breathing. It’s pretty scary. So… my heart was beating fast. Even though I was nervous, we did show up today. As we climbed the stairs. Trent Annis, a member of the red crew, said in an interview on NASA TV after launch, “We were ready to go.”
Other NASA workers in the firing room at the launch site, where important decisions are made in the hours and minutes before liftoff, celebrated a win.
“Well, I might not be able to say anything this time,” Artemis said. I give Charlie Blackwell-Thompson her first job as a director. She is the first woman to do this.
'What if we could save money by using the resources that are already on the moon?' PhD Candidate Matthew Shaw discusses @NASAArtemis launch & the possibilities of using Moon dirt for construction in space via @ConversationEDU 🚀 https://t.co/4acmv2sDcv #swinburne #research pic.twitter.com/1XhypVHJ2N
— Swinburne University of Technology (@Swinburne) November 17, 2022
Blackwell-Thompson told the engineers in the firing room, “I’ve talked a lot about how important it is to enjoy the moment you’re in.” “And we’ve worked hard together as a group. You’ve all worked hard as a group to get to this point. Now is your chance.”
Blackwell-Thompson then said it was time for a NASA tradition called “tie-cutting,” in which launch operators cut the ends of their business ties. Blackwell was Thompson’s cut by shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach, and she promised the other people in the room, “I’ll stay all night if I have to. I’ll be happy to break ties.”
Several astronauts were there to watch the launch, and NASA administrator Bill Nelson told reporters that he and some of the astronauts watched the liftoff from a nearby roof.
Nelson said, “There were a lot of people there who wanted to be on that rocket.”
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.