The most powerful space rocket in history, Artemis 1, “is finally on course for the moon after lifting off from Florida, U.S early this morning.”
The 1.3m-mile journey to the moon and back will take the spacecraft 25 days to accomplish. It is NASA’s first crew-capable deep-space mission for half a century.
“No astronauts are aboard the Artemis 1 test flight, three mannequins and a Snoopy soft toy gauging radiation levels and testing new life-preservation systems and equipment designed for the next generation of long-duration human spaceflight,” Luscombe reports.
Experts have argued that the success of the mission is crucial to the Artemis 2 and 3 flights that will follow. “Both will ferry humans to and from the moon, with the latter, scheduled for 2025 but expected to slip back a year, being the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in December 1972,” they say.
According to Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, there “had been a robust debate about pressing forward with Wednesday’s launch.”
“Even at the final decision poll there was discussion about, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we’re understanding and talking through all the issue…I can tell you that the team absolutely did that. The group that cares the most about this rocket is the group making those decisions. I would never expect, nor have I ever heard, any overconfidence or cavalier nature,” he said.
It is estimated that Artemis, which, Luscombe notes, was launched with 8.8 million pounds of thrust, 1.3 million greater than the Saturn V behemoths of the Apollo era will “fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans. It will, NASA says, travel 280,000 miles (450,000km) from Earth, and 40,000 miles (64,000km) beyond the far side of the moon.”