Daily Mail

To the moon and beyond!

After two false starts, 23,000mph rocket roars off on 26-day Nasa lunar mission

- By Xantha Leatham Deputy Science Editor

AMID a blaze of fire and light, Nasa’s most powerful rocket lifted off yesterday for the moon ‘and beyond’.

Following months of delays, Artemis 1 finally took off shortly before 7am GMT from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

It is the first step in a 1.3millionmi­le, 26- day voyage around the moon which will pave the way for future human lunar exploratio­n.

The 322ft Space Launch System rocket had been filled with more than 700,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen for the trip at a staggering 22,600mph.

It roared into life after Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Nasa’s first female flight director, gave the ‘go’ for launch. Four enormous RS-25 engines, along with two boosters, were able to provide 8.8million pounds of thrust – 15 per cent more than Saturn V, which was used in the Apollo missions.

‘We rise together, back to the moon and beyond’, said Nasa’s official commentato­r.

Experts said it performed ‘outstandin­gly’ and ‘exactly as we intended it to’. The rocket boosters detached two minutes after take-off while the largest part of the structure, the core stage, detached six minutes later.

They, along with an interim cryogenic propulsion stage, helped boost the Orion crew capsule on its path toward the moon. The capsule will travel 40,000 miles beyond the far side of the moon – farther than any spacecraft built for humans has flown.

Splashdown back on Earth is estimated to be on December 11.

Yesterday’s flight followed launch attempts in August and September that were aborted because of technical woes.

Mike Sarafin, Nasa’s Artemis mission manager, said: ‘We got to witness the world’s most powerful rocket take the Earth by its edges and shake the wicked out of it.’

His boss, the agency’s administra­tor Bill Nelson, said he would give the launch an ‘A+’. He added: ‘It’s the most acoustical shockwave that I have ever experience­d. But we have still a long way to go. This is just a test flight.’

Providing it is all successful, another flight is due to follow in 2024 – this time with astronauts on board – before human boots grace the lunar surface a year later as part of the £78billion programme.

The flight is carrying three mannequins that contain special plastics to mimic the bones, organs and soft tissue of adult females.

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