NASA's Artemis I Historic Mission Begins

NASA's Artemis I Mega Rocket Towards the Ramp
NASA's Artemis I Mega Rocket Towards the Ramp

After months of waiting, the historic Artemis I expedition launched early Wednesday morning. This historic event marked the beginning of a mission to fly an unmanned spacecraft around the Moon. In this way, NASA will be able to bring astronauts back to the lunar surface for the first time in fifty years.

At 1:47 p.m., the Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket fired its engines, reaching an altitude of 322 feet (98 meters). It used as much as 9 million pounds (4,1 million kg) of thrust to lift itself off the Florida launch pad. It then floated brilliantly across the night sky.

Perched atop the rocket was the Orion spacecraft, a gum drop-shaped capsule that separated from the rocket after it went into space. Orion was built to carry people, but on this test flight, it carries inanimate objects, including dummies, which gather important information for future live crew.

Before parts of the rocket began to fall apart, millions of kilos of fuel were consumed by the SLS rocket, leaving only one powerful engine left to propel Orion into orbit. The spacecraft was then launched on the proper course towards the Moon, thanks to two powerful fires from its engine. About two hours after takeoff, the rocket engine was also dismantled, allowing Orion to continue its journey in free flight.

According to NASA, Orion will reach almost 2 million kilometers, covering more distance than any other spacecraft built for manned flight. After Orion orbits the Moon, it will return and complete its journey in about 25,5 days. On December 11, rescuers will be ready to tow the capsule to safety as it crashes into the Pacific Ocean off San Diego.

NASA engineers will closely monitor the spacecraft's performance throughout the journey. The group will evaluate Orion's functionality and will be ready to support its first crewed journey to lunar orbit, currently scheduled for 2024.

This mission, which has 20% more horsepower than NASA's Saturn V rocket that landed on the Moon in the 15th century, is also the first launch of the SLS rocket, making it the most powerful rocket to reach Earth orbit.

As NASA works towards the goal of establishing a permanent base on the Moon, this mission is just the first of what is expected to be a long series of increasingly challenging Artemis missions. Artemis II will travel the same route as Artemis I, but will carry astronauts. A woman and a person of color are expected to land on the lunar surface for the first time on Artemis III, scheduled for later this decade.

Prior to launch on Wednesday morning, the mission team faced a number of obstacles, including technical difficulties with the large moon rocket and two hurricanes passing through the launch site.

But on Tuesday, the tanks were full despite leaking problems that interrupted refueling hours before launch. NASA had to abandon previous takeoff attempts due to the supercooled liquid hydrogen fuel of the SLS rocket, which had been a key issue.

To solve this problem, NASA sent a team of properly trained workers it calls the "red team" to make repairs while the rocket is full of propellant. Various nuts and bolts were tightened to stop fuel leaks.

The rocket moves, squeaks and makes venting sounds; this is quite worrying. That's why my heart was beating fast. Even though my nerves were frayed, we arrived today. While climbing the stairs. "We were ready to rock and roll," Red crew member Trent Annis said in a post-launch interview with NASA TV.

In the fire room at the launch site, where agency officials made key decisions in the hours and seconds before takeoff, other NASA employees were rejoicing at a success.

Artemis I launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the first woman to hold such a position, admitted, "This time I may have been speechless."

“I talked a lot about enjoying the moment you are in,” Blackwell-Thompson said in a speech to the engineers in the launch room. “And our team put a lot of effort into it. Your team has put a lot of effort into getting here, too. Your time has come.

Then it was time to cut the tie, a NASA tradition in which launch operators cut the ends of their professional ties, according to Blackwell-Thompson. When Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach turned down Blackwell-Thompson's offer, he promised other people in the room: “I'll stay all night if need be. I would be happy to end our relationship.

Source: CNN

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