- NASA’s Artemis 1 launched in the early morning darkness from Cape Canaveral
- The countdown was delayed 45 minutes while ground crews fixed another hydrogen leak
- After successfully reaching orbit, Artemis fired its engines again to propel the spacecraft toward the moon
- The mission is slated to last more than 25 days before returning to earth after testing its systems in lunar orbit
While most were sleeping at 1:47am Wednesday morning, NASA successfully launched its massive Artemis 1 rocket on its way to orbit the moon.
“Liftoff of Artemis 1!” NASA commentator Derrol Nail said during the webcast of this morning’s launch. “We rise together, back to the moon and beyond.”
The night launch, which can be watched on Youtube, was reminiscent of Space Shuttle launches with a pair of solid rocket boosters separating cleanly only a couple of minutes into the flight. The main stage of the Artemis rocket also uses four main engines that flew on previous space shuttles.
NASA says the primary goal of Artemis I is to test the spacecraft’s systems before humans fly aboard. The Artemis 1 mission will test the ship in a deep space environment, and flight test Orion’s heat shield, as well as survivability of the crew module after reentry, descent, and splashdown.
In the months prior, previous Artemis 1 launch attempts had to be scrubbed several times, and the rocket also had to ride out two hurricanes, Ian and Nicole, before finally making it all the way through the countdown process and into space.
After successfully making its way into orbit, NASA fired Artemis 1’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage for a trans-lunar injection burn that lasted for 18 minutes. That rocket burn pushed Artemis into a new, extremely elliptical orbit that will take it to the moon more than 238,000 miles high. The mission is expected to last over 25 days, with a return to Earth slated for December 11, 2022.
The countdown was not without its challenges. Another hydrogen leak threatened to scrub the mission, but ground crews managed to fix the problem, which delayed liftoff by about 45 minutes, still within NASA’s planned launch window.