Artemis I lifts off at last

November 16 at 1:47 am E.T. from LC-39B at the Kennedy Space Center

At long last, with over a decade of hard work and numerous delays since this summer NASA’s Mega Moon Rocket, the SLS or Space Launch System has finally left the ground as it begins its trip around our Moon. Will all the struggles NASA has endured to get this multi billion dollar machine off the ground, all that dedication has finally paid off. Sure there is no crew on board, but Artemis I will go around the Moon and back allowing mission managers to perform crucial tests of the Orion capsules systems. This is a key milestone for the Artemis program, which is looking to put the first woman, and next man on the Moon. Something not done since 1972.

Photo by: Matt Cutshall- NHS

NASA’s initial attempt back in August was called off due to a faulty engine sensor. Then hydrogen leaks made repairs necessary before being able to try again. Next, hurricane Ian blew in and forced the SLS to roll back inside the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). When the behemouth did return to Launch Complex 39B after Ian passed it got blasted by another hurricane, this time Nicole. Mission managers spent a fair amount of time discussing some damage done by Nicole to a thin strip of caulking which fills a small gap in the top of the SLS. Some of the torn off material sits too high up to repair on the launch pad, but engineers have analyzed the situation extensively and gave the okay to launch.

As the night grew longer issues arose, once again putting lift off of Artemis I in jeopardy. The red team, three men were sent to the pad to resolve the issue. Upon a successful fix the three returned only to find out that a ground station with vital radar was offline. Turns out that a faulty ehternet cable needed replacing, and NASA was told that could take up to seventy minutes. The clock was now stopped at T-minus ten minutes and the launch window was growing less and less. Then suddenly the clock resumed and all hands were on deck as at long last it appeared Artemis I would finally take off. And it did just that. At 1:47 am E.T. those twin SRBs and four RS-25 engines ignited and the night turned to day as SLS eased off the pad. Crowds around the Kennedy Space Center and Titusville erupted in cheers and broadcasters spoke in stunned awe that this moment was finally here.

Photo by: Zac Shaul – NHS

Many have criticized NASA and their SLS rocket, mainly stating it’s far too expensive to be sustainable. The first three flights alone are expected to cost more than four-billion dollars a piece. Though the rocket won’t be flying too often regardless. The next mission is set for 2024 and won’t land astronauts on the Moon until, at the earliest 2025. This has been the main mission of NASA since 2011 when the shuttle program ended, and in order to do so they off loaded their routine trips to the ISS (International Space Station) to privately owned SpaceX.

Also along for the ride this morning were ten cubsats. Those are tiny, more cost effective satellites the size of a shoe box that will be deployed along the course of the Artemis I mission to help scientists gather research along the way. One is the Lunar IceCube, a satellite set to find volatiles and water on the Moon’s surface and map their locations using an infrared spectrometer. It will also demonstrate the worlds only power source to be fueled by iodine. NEA Scout will be the first satellite to travel by solar winds and sail propulsion by using sunlight to generate movement. It’s objective is to identify properties of a near Earth asteroid. LunIR is going to use mid wave infrared technology to take images of the Moon’s surface. This is to help minimalize risk to future Moon and deep space missions. All in all each of the ten has a separate mission, all working towards the goal of making deep space travel and research a passable option.

Infographic by Rykllan