NASA, the American space agency, has launched its most powerful Artemis Moon rocket ever from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first Artemis I launch failed due to technical issues at the end of August, and a second attempt at the beginning of September was hampered by a fuel leak.
The 100-meter-tall vehicle took off at 01:47 a.m. local time from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to send an unmanned capsule around the Moon.
According to NASA, the Orion capsule will return in about 26 days. That gives us an estimated splashdown date of December 11th.
The Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of San Diego, California, is the target for that splashdown.
The 100m-tall Artemis vehicle rose into the sky in a spectacular display of light and sound.
For the first time in more than 50 years, NASA hopes to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2025.
The mission entails sending the unmanned capsule Orion around the back of the Moon using a massive rocket.
NASA to commemorate 50th anniversary of Apollo 17
Nasa will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 17, the last time humans walked on the Moon, in December.
Artemis (Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology) is the name given by the space agency to its new program.
Orion is being launched on a 26-day journey that will take it into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.
At its closest approach, the capsule will be only 100 kilometers from the lunar surface; at its farthest, Orion will be up to 70,000 kilometers away (45,000 miles). This will be the most distant human-rated spacecraft that has ever traveled from Earth.
The capsule is scheduled to return to Earth on December 11, which is about three and a half weeks from now.
That is when one of the mission’s pivotal events occurs.
Engineers are most concerned that Orion’s heat shield will withstand the extreme temperatures encountered during re-entry into our planet’s atmosphere.
The capsule will arrive at 38,000km/h (24,000mph), or 32 times the speed of sound.
A shield on its underside must withstand temperatures approaching 3,000 degrees Celsius.
ALSO READ: NASA’s James Webb Telescope captures the iconic “Pillars of Creation”