Artemis I mission launches to the Moon

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NBC) – A new era in American space exploration is officially underway.

The Artemis I SLS rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday morning at about 2 a.m. Eastern Time. Its next stop: the Moon.

If this mission is successful, it will set the stage for Americans to return to the lunar surface in just a few years.

This launch has been delayed for months, both by technical problems and also by not one, but two hurricanes that hit the state of Florida in recent weeks.

But now, a new phase of American space exploration is underway with the Artemis I mission finally getting off the ground.

The Orion crew capsule, which sat atop that rocket that went into space early Wednesday morning, is now headed toward the moon. It will take about five days to get there before it enters the Moon’s orbit.

At one point, the capsule will be about 300,000 miles away from Earth. It will be the deepest into space that a spacecraft designed for humans will actually travel. That is a test run.

There are no astronauts on board this Orion capsule. NASA wants to figure out what it will be like in just a couple of years when they put astronauts inside that capsule and send them to orbit the moon.

It’s a 26-day mission. The Orion crew capsule will return to Earth in December, splashing down just off the coast of San Diego.

Some objectives for NASA in running this test: they want to figure out exactly whether that capsule can endure re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere at 5,000° F. They also want to figure out what a space flight like this will feel like for the astronauts on board.

There are some mannequins on board now that will give them lots of data about radiation and vibrations that astronauts will endure in just a couple of years.

It’s been a trying time for NASA. But now, the feeling here is relief and excitement that the Artemis I mission is finally underway.

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