NASA launched its new mega-lunar rocket from Florida this morning after technical problems threatened to spoil the game for a third time.
Engineers were forced to temporarily halt the flow of liquid hydrogen into the core stage last night because of a valve leak, although a team dispatched to the launch pad fixed the problem after an hour.
The space agency later reported that a radar monitoring the rocket’s trajectory was experiencing problems due to a faulty Ethernet switch.
A two-hour launch window opened at 1:04 am (6:04 am Irish time) and the rocket launched at 1:47 am local time.
“Take off from Artemis1. We’ll rise together. Back to the moon and beyond,” said a NASA announcer.
—NASA (@NASA) November 16, 2022
The mission will last 25.5 days, with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 11th.
The Artemis 1 mission, an astronaut-free test flight, represents the first step in America’s plan to establish a permanent presence on the moon and learn lessons from it in preparation for a future trip to Mars in the 2030s.
Named after the sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, the new program comes 50 years after humans last set foot on the moon.
The 32-story Space Launch System rocket is the most powerful ever built.
The launch was scheduled less than a week after the passage of Hurricane Nicole, which the rocket survived on its launch pad.
If necessary, two backup dates on November 19th and 25th are possible.
The space geek in me screams with excitement for tonight. It’s a very special feeling to be here at the launch of Artemis I. The most powerful rocket NASA has ever built. It will fly further than any human-made spacecraft, 40,000 miles beyond the far side of the moon 🤯 🚀 pic.twitter.com/zedA2YHKyg
— Laurence Kinlan (@laurencekinlan) November 16, 2022
About 100,000 people had gathered on the coast to watch the launch, including Irish actor Laurence Kinlan, as the rocket lit up the night sky.
Andrew Trombley, a space enthusiast from St. Louis, Missouri, was anxiously hoping for a successful launch after making several unsuccessful trips to the launch.
“I’ve been down here a few times to see this thing go up and it gets cancelled, so anyways this is the third trip down here for it so I’m excited to see it,” said the network engineer.
“I was too small for the Apollo missions, so…I wanted to be here personally.”
Kerry Warner, 59, a grandmother and semi-retired educator who lives in Florida, is cheered for the launch, which she said is “part of America and what America is about.”
“The third time is the spell. We hope so.”
Other side of the moon
In late September, the missile had to be wheeled back to its assembly building to be protected from another Hurricane, Ian.
Before these weather setbacks, two take-off attempts were aborted for technical reasons.
The first error was related to a defective sensor, the second to a fuel leak when filling the rocket’s tanks. It runs on ultra-cold, ultra-volatile liquid oxygen and hydrogen.
NASA has since replaced a seal and changed their procedures to avoid thermal shock as much as possible.
Two boosters and four powerful thrusters lifted the Orion capsule under the core stage, which separated after just a few minutes.
After a final nudge from the high school, the pod will set off and take several days to reach its destination.
Instead of landing on the moon, it will take a distant orbit and venture 40,000 miles beyond the other side, farther than any other habitable spacecraft to date.
Eventually, Orion will begin the return journey. When passing through the atmosphere, the capsule’s heat shield must withstand a temperature half that of the sun’s surface.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) November 16, 2022
NASA is poised for a successful mission after more than a decade developing the SLS rocket.
By the end of 2025, the company will have invested more than $90 billion in its new lunar program, according to a public audit.
Artemis 2 will include a moon flyby with astronauts in 2024.
Boots on the Ground was slated to take place during Artemis 3, no earlier than 2025, with the crew set to include the first woman and first person of color to walk on the moon.
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