NASA's unmanned lunar mission Artemis 1 has successfully launched: The Artemis 1 superheavy-lift rocket was launched at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:04 a.m. ET (1:04 a.m. EST, 06:04 GMT). As part of the mission, the rocket will carry an empty crew capsule into the orbit of the moon, which will return and land in the Pacific Ocean three weeks later.
Here is an online broadcast of the rocket launch:
This mission could be considered as preparation for the first manned missions to the moon expected to take place as early as 2025.
As recently as last year, NASA selected SpaceX's Starship to carry out the first mission with a human landing on the moon. The Artemis III mission is scheduled to land a crewed ship near the lunar south pole in 2025.
According to space.com, NASA announced in September it was accepting bids from other companies willing to provide crewed landing modules for the Artemis missions. It recently emerged that NASA has decided to entrust SpaceX with the second lunar landing, due to take place in 2027.
This news made SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk very happy.
"Much appreciated, SpaceX will not let NASA down!!" the billionaire tweeted.
“Continuing our collaborative efforts with SpaceX through Option B furthers our resilient plans for regular crewed transportation to the lunar surface and establishing a long-term human presence under Artemis,” Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager of the Human Landing System program at the Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement. “This critical work will help us focus on the development of sustainable, service-based lunar landers anchored to NASA’s requirements for regularly recurring missions to the lunar surface.”
The Starship spacecraft, intended for missions to the moon and Mars, is still being developed. In December, SpaceX will also make one of its most important launches of the year: a 70-meter-long Super Heavy booster will orbit the 50-meter-long Starship in a test flight.
SpaceX had made only test launches of Starship prototypes at an altitude of up to 10 kilometers to check the systems and test landings. After several unsuccessful launches specialists were able to land the ship without exploding.
By 2025, SpaceX will have to make several tests of its system in orbit.