Close to three months after its first attempt at a launch, NASA was finally to fire Artemis I’s Space Launch System rocket toward the moon early Wednesday morning.
The 25.5-day mission will send Artemis I’s Orion spacecraft around the moon and back ahead of a mission that will send humans around the moon.
“It’s taken a lot to get here, but Orion is now on its way to the Moon,” said Jim Free, NASA deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This successful launch means NASA and our partners are on a path to explore farther in space than ever before for the benefit of humanity.”
On Nov. 21, Orion will do a close flyby of the moon before going into an orbit several thousand miles above the moon. After a few weeks, it will return to Earth.
Since this flight is in preparation for a crewed mission to the moon, NASA included three mannequins inside Orion.
Several mechanical issues and two hurricanes forced numerous launch delays.
The rocket had issues with a hydrogen leak that required NASA to reseal a tank. After performing bleed tests on the tank in September, NASA planned on moving forward with a launch before Hurricane Ian’s development late in the month.
Then after returning the rocket and spacecraft to the launching pad, NASA had to push back the launch due to the development of Hurricane Nicole.
With its intended goal to eventually send mankind to Mars, NASA is looking to inspire the next generation of astronauts in the same fashion Apollo did in the 60s and 70s.
“I'm a product of the Apollo generation and look what it did for us. And I cannot wait to see what comes from the Artemis generation because I think it's going to inspire even more than Apollo did,” Bob Cabana, the associate administrator for NASA Headquarters, said.
While Artemis II will include a crewed flyby of the moon, Artemis III is expected to have a manned mission to the moon’s surface.
“And this is just the test flight and we are stressing it and testing it in ways that we will not do to a rocket that has a human crew on it, but that's the purpose to make it as safe as possible, as reliable as possible for when our astronauts crawl on board and go back to the moon,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.