Miami, Nov 16 (EFE).- NASA successfully launched its unmanned Artemis I mission to the Moon from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Wednesday after four failed attempts in August and September.
The towering Space Launch System rocket, which stands 98 meters (332 feet) tall, with its Orion spacecraft, lifted off into the night sky at 1.47 am local time (6.47 am GMT).
This was the space agency’s fourth attempt to launch the first lunar mission mounted by the United States since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The first try, on August 29, was called off due to a problem with a sensor, while a launch set for September 3 was scrubbed after NASA detected a hydrogen leak.
Officials subsequently rescheduled the launch for September 27, but had to postpone because of the threat of bad weather and subsequently moved the rocket and spacecraft back inside the Vehicle Assembly Building as Hurricane Ian was approaching Florida.
The Artemis mission aims to return humans to the Moon for the first time in half a century, and pave the way for building a lunar base that would serve as a launchpad for exploring Mars.
During the Artemis I mission, NASA will test the SLS, the most powerful rocket system in the agency’s history, which was built at a cost of $4 billion.
The Orion spacecraft has the capacity to carry four astronauts into space — one more than the Apollo — and stores enough oxygen and water to fuel a 20-day mission.
After separating from the SLS rocket system, the Orion capsule will travel some 2.01 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) in its roundtrip to the Moon.
The three mannequins onboard the craft are equipped with sensors to send data back to Earth.
The Orion capsule will overfly the Moon’s surface at a distance of around 62 miles (nearly 100 kilometers) and also a distant lunar orbit some 61,000km from Earth’s satellite, farther than any manned mission in history.
Orion is set to return to Earth with a Pacific splashdown off the coast of San Diego. It will deploy 11 parachutes to slow its descent as it reenters the atmosphere at an eye-watering speed of 40,000 kilometers per hour, reaching temperatures of 2,760C (5,000F).
The crewed Artemis II and Artemis III lunar missions are set for 2024 and 2025, respectively, as part of an ambitious program aimed at sending humans to Mars.EFE