By Kieran Burt.
NASA launched its most powerful rocket into space on November 16, after three previous failed launch attempts.
Artemis 1 was originally scheduled to leave Earth in August, but had its launch date pushed back after technical problems. Hurricane Ian also delayed the rocket’s take off.
The rocket, named Space Launch System (SLS), took off from Cape Canaveral Florida, and will now begin its orbit around the Earth, and then heading over towards the dark side of the moon.
Orion, the space capsule SLS is carrying, will make its closest approach to the moon on November 21, only being 60 miles above the surface. While this current rocket is unmanned, it’s hoped that this could pave the way for a new generation of astronauts and space exploration.
Orion will splash down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11, cutting the original time in space from 42 days down to less than a month.
Both stages of the SLS separated from the craft just 8 minutes after takeoff. This is the first time the SLS has been to space. Orion has previously been in orbit before, back in 2014.
According to a statement from NASA, both the SLS and Orion will be able to take never before seen pictures of the Earth and Moon using 24 cameras. The camera itself was bought off the commercial market, and has been “highly modified for use in space.”
The hope is that NASA will be able to send humans back into space in 2025 in Artemis 2. NASA eventually hopes to build a new space station orbiting the moon, and establish a permanent lunar presence.
This mission isn’t simply a NASA endeavour. The Goonhilly Earth station in Cornwall, UK, will be providing vital communications support to Artemis 1.
The European Space Agency provided the service module on Orion, along with a lot of the components such as the propulsion and navigation.