A new era in space exploration has begun thanks to the successful launch of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). The rocket, which is the most powerful in the world, took off from the Kennedy Space Center on November 16, 2022, as part of the Artemis I mission. The rocket is carrying the Orion spacecraft 40,000 miles beyond the Moon before it returns back to Earth on December 11. To celebrate the event, NASA has released photos from its official photographers on Flickr.
The images show the palpable excitement as crowds wait for the launch and the jubilation when SLS finally takes to the sky. As the launch had been called off several other times due to weather or technical failures, NASA officials were ecstatic to see the rocket take off.
“What an incredible sight to see NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft launch together for the first time. This uncrewed flight test will push Orion to the limits in the rigors of deep space, helping us prepare for human exploration on the Moon and, ultimately, Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
Artemis I is part of NASA's mission to explore the Moon and Mars. The goal of this crewless mission is to pave the way for humans to return to the Moon during the Artemis II mission. Orion is the partially reusable spacecraft that will be able to take humans farther into space than ever before. Traveling at speeds of up to 25,000 miles per hour, Orion will perform a series of tests during its time in orbit. These tests will help ensure the safety of astronauts during future crewed missions.
Thus far, Orion has deployed its solar arrays and has been performing system tests. After a series of burns to propel it forward, it should pass the Moon on November 21. Along the way, NASA mission controllers will be monitoring its progress and making any necessary course corrections.
“The Space Launch System rocket delivered the power and performance to send Orion on its way to the Moon,” says Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager. “With the accomplishment of the first major milestone of the mission, Orion will now embark on the next phase to test its systems and prepare for future missions with astronauts.”