After three months of launch delays, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket has successfully begun its mission—and will begin working with private companies on the effort.
- NASA’s Artemis I mission was launched early this morning from Kennedy Space Center, after a short pause for last-minute repairs and preparations.
- The mission was originally planned to launch on August 29 but was delayed three times, in addition to previous construction delays and cost overruns.
- The spacecraft now begins its 25-day unmanned test mission to orbit the moon, carrying a human-rated spacecraft in the farthest orbit from Earth in human history.
- The Orion capsule is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on December 11.
- The launch marks an important milestone for the future of space exploration and it is joined by similar promising successes in private space investment from SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing, and other startups that are beginning to find new ways to turn space into a profitable commercial venture.
- SpaceX, a privately run business, has stated its intentions of reaching the moon and will collaborate with NASA for Artemis IV.
Why it’s News
As we previously reported, the launch of Artemis I has been a tumultuous process. NASA purposely delayed the launch multiple times for the safety of the launch after discovering leaks. The program was announced in 2017, using recycled boosters from the space shuttle program, but delays and cost overruns have given the program a $4.1 billion per launch bill. NASA and Boeing’s reputations were hanging on a successful launch.
This has been a good year for NASA overall with the launching of the James Webb space telescope, the successful deflection of a near-Earth asteroid test, the successful launch of the Capstone lunar orbiter, and last week’s successful test of its new inflatable heat shield technology. It also plans to launch a lunar rover in 2023. The future of space exploration is filled with opportunity.
Backing up a Bit
The launch marks the first step in landing American astronauts on the moon again for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972. Artemis II is planned to orbit the moon in 2024 with a crew and Artemis III is planned to land four astronauts on the moon in 2025. Artemis III will be the seventh manned mission to successfully land on the moon.
“For once I might be speechless. You guys know I’ve talked a lot about appreciating the moment we’re in. We’ve worked hard as a team—you’ve worked hard as a team—for this moment. This is your moment. It is not by chance you are here today. Look around at this team and know you’ve earned your place in the room, this moment, and history,” says launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson.