NASA Successfully Launches Artemis I Mission After a Month of Delays

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

After years of planning and several foiled launch dates, NASA’s Artemis I is finally on its way to the moon.

On November 16, at 1:47 am ET, the Orion spacecraft blasted into the cosmos atop a Space Launch System from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The successful launch means that the administration’s three-phase mission has officially begun.

“For once I might be speechless,” NASA launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said to her team. “This is your moment. … You are part of a first. We are all part of something incredibly special, the first launch of Artemis, the first step of returning our country to the moon and onto Mars. … The harder the climb, the better the view. We showed the Space Coast tonight what a beautiful view it is.”

This first phase will see the unmanned Orion travel “beyond the far side of the Moon” and then return to Earth in one piece.

“Orion will venture farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a press conference. “It will be on a mission of over a million miles [1.6 million kilometers] to the moon and back, in all kinds of orbits around the moon testing the spacecraft … then after its long flight test, Orion will come home faster and hotter than any spacecraft has before.”

Artemis I Will Help NASA Send Humans to the Moon’s South Pole in 2025

Orion will set the framework for Artemis II and III by leaving instruments in the lunar orbit to gather data needed for the subsequent crewed ship. The craft will spend nearly 26 days in space before it lands in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11, 2022.

If all goes as planned, phase II will take astronauts for a lunar flyby test in 2024. This will be the first mission to send a crew past Earth’s low orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972. 

Finally, Artemis III will send humans to the surface of the moon’s South Pole in 2025. They will collect samples and study the recently-confirmed water ice.

“With Artemis, we will build a long-term human presence on the Moon and prepare humanity for future exploration plans to Mars and beyond,” NASA wrote in an Instagram post announcing today’s feat.

Today’s launch was the sixth attempt at liftoff since NASA began the Artemis 1 mission. Orion was initially scheduled to take off in August, but a system check discovered engine problems that kept it grounded. In September, the launch was delayed once again after engineers found a hydrogen leak.

In September and October, Hurricane Ian and its aftermath caused two more delays. Then on Nov. 14th, Hurricane Nicole kept Orion from leaving Earth.