The Artemis I Space Launch System, carrying the new Orion spacecraft, has been launched into Earth orbit.
Take off took place at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad in Florida at 1:47am US Eastern Time on Wednesday.
Boosters and the core stage have separated from the SLS after the core stage topped out at over 25,000 kilometres per hour before being jettisoned from the Orion spacecraft and Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage.
Orion is now ‘flying free’ in orbit around the Earth.
Mission control will shortly perform systems checks and adjust the solar panels attached to Orion before performing a trans lunar injection burn and separating the spacecraft from the ICPS as it leaves the Earth’s orbit and sets off for the Moon.
Artemis I will see the Orion spacecraft sent into lunar orbit before returning to Earth in a mission that will take a minimum of 26 days.
Successful competition of the Artemis I mission will then set NASA full steam ahead for the second mission, which will put humans back into orbit around the Moon.
The final mission – Artemis III – will put astronauts onto the lunar surface for the first time in more than half a century. It will also mark the first time a woman and person of colour have walked on the Moon.
Speaking to colleagues in mission control at the Kennedy Space Center following the launch, Artemis I launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said, “The first launch of Artemis [was]… the first step in returning our country [the United States] to the Moon and onto Mars”.
The Artemis mission will culminate with the establishment of a permanent human presence on the Moon, as a research precursor to doing likewise on the Martian surface.
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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