NASA’s programme to land a woman on moon has liftoff

NASA launches Artemis I Mega Rocket Orion


NASA’s Artemis programme has liftoff after it successfully launched mega rocket, Orion to the Moon.

The Artemis 1 Space Launch System (SLS) took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6.47am on 16 November, sending the uncrewed Orion capsule, powered by the European service module that includes Orion’s engines, towards the Moon.

The successful launch marks the beginning of the NASA-led Artemis programme, which the UK is part of through the European Space Agency (ESA) Human and Robotic Exploration Programme, and which will eventually see humans return to the Moon.

Through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of colour on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone for astronauts on the way to Mars.

NASA plans to send the first crewed Artemis mission into space in 2024 and expects the first Artemis astronauts to land on the lunar surface in 2025.

After reaching its initial orbit, Orion deployed its solar arrays and engineers began performing checkouts of the spacecraft’s systems. About 1.5 hours into flight, the rocket’s upper stage engine successfully fired for approximately 18 minutes to give Orion the big push needed to send it out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon.  

Orion has separated from its upper stage and is on its outbound coast to the Moon powered by its service module, which is the propulsive powerhouse provided by ESA (European Space Agency) through an international collaboration.

Libby Jackson, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, said, “The launch of the Artemis 1 mission is a hugely significant moment for the global space community, paving the way for humanity to return to the Moon in the coming years.”

“We are proud to be a part of ESA, which is contributing to this mission with the Orion service module, and we look forward to seeing direct UK involvement in the Lunar Gateway, currently in development through ESA’s exploration programme.”

“It’s also exciting to see this mission being tracked in the UK from Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall, marking a major step for our capacity to offer commercial lunar communications from the UK.”

“The Artemis programme marks the next chapter of human space exploration, and we look forward to continued involvement as it comes to life.”


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