Return to the moon: Nasa launches it's Artemis 1 rocket in 'historic mission for mankind'

16 November 2022, 08:46 | Updated: 16 November 2022, 09:34

The Artemis 1 rocket lifting off
The Artemis 1 rocket lifting off. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

NASA's Artemis 1, the most powerful rocket in history, launched on Wednesday on its way to the moon.

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Artemis 1's lift-off had been delayed by two hurricanes that swept across the Florida launchpad over recent months.

The 1.3 million mile journey to the moon and back is set to take 25 days. Artemis 1 will land again on December 11.

NASA launches Artemis, its biggest ever rocket

The 100-metre tall Artemis 1 has no astronauts on board, although it does have three mannequins and a Snoopy soft toy, as well as life-preservation equipment to be tested in space.

Part of the rocket, the most powerful ever with 8.8 million pounds of thrust, will come just 100km from the surface of the moon at its closest.

Artemis I Launches After Several Failed Attempts
Artemis I Launches After Several Failed Attempts. Picture: Getty
Artemis I Launch
Artemis I Launch. Picture: Getty

The rocket will be the first deep-space, crew-capable mission in about 50 years - and, if successful, will pave the way for two further manned missions.

Nasa plans for Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 to take human astronauts to and from the moon.

Artemis 3, originally scheduled for 2025 but now expected to slip back, will be the first crewed lunar landing since 1972, when Apollo 17 touched down on the moon.

Artemis 3 will bring the first female astronaut to the moon, with the Apollo missions only crewed by men.

NASA Prepares For Belated Launch Of Artemis I Orion Spacecraft
NASA Prepares For Belated Launch Of Artemis I Orion Spacecraft. Picture: Getty
NASA Prepares For Belated Launch Of Artemis I Orion Spacecraft
NASA Prepares For Belated Launch Of Artemis I Orion Spacecraft. Picture: Getty

Later Artemis missions will also be crewed by the first astronaut who is a person of colour, Nasa said.

One of the key issues Nasa wants to learn with the unmanned mission is whether the heat shield can cope with the extremely high temperatures when it re-enters the atmosphere.

The shield on its underside must cope with temperatures approaching 3,000 degrees celsius.

Artemis 1 was given the go-ahead at 1.47am local time (6.47am UK time) on Wednesday.

NASA Prepares For Belated Launch Of Artemis I Orion Spacecraft
NASA Prepares For Belated Launch Of Artemis I Orion Spacecraft. Picture: Getty
People watch the rocket lift off
People watch the rocket lift off. Picture: Getty

Speaking after the lift-off, Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said: "That's the biggest flame I've ever seen. It's the most acoustical shockwave that I have ever experienced."

Wednesday's launch comes after abortive lift-off attempts in August and September that were scrapped because of treatment malfunctions. Then Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole in October and November forced Nasa to push the launch back further.

Jim Free, Nasa’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, said: “Even at the final decision poll there was discussion about, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we’re understanding and talking through all the issues.’

"I can tell you that the team absolutely did that. The group that cares the most about this rocket is the group making those decisions. I would never expect, nor have I ever heard, any overconfidence or cavalier nature.”

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