NASA’s Artemis I makes way to moon after successful launch

After multiple delays, NASA’s Artemis I rocket launched Wednesday and is set to travel to the moon and back.

Artemis Launch
Mariana Navarro
Artemis I launches Wednesday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“Liftoff for Artemis I,” shouted Derrol Nail, NASA’s commentator. “We rise together, back to the moon and beyond.”

After two launch attempts ended in scrubs and several delays, NASA’s Artemis I Space Launch System rocket (SLS) finally lifted off at 1:47 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, making a historic lunar flyby.

Back on Earth, there was indescribable excitement marked by hugs, tears, laughter and countless shouts as if announcing victory over the dream of going back to the moon. With Artemis I, that dream is now a reality.

Filmmaker and NASA Social participant Chloe Gardiner from West Hartford, Connecticut, traveled more than twice to witness the historic launch. She says all the attempts were worth it.

“I was very overwhelmed, in a good way,” she said. “I guess I watched too many movies because I thought it would be in slow motion, and it happened so quickly that it was so exciting. I feel a little emotional. I don’t know why but it was beautiful.”

NASA hopes the Artemis mission will inspire diversity and inclusion in the future of space.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut,” Gardiner said. “Someone I look up to is Mae Jemison; she was the first Black woman in space. Part of me is documenting this experience to inspire other young kids of color and women to go into space. I’m inspired to be part of that and contribute.”

Artemis Chloe Gardiner
Filmmaker Chloe Gardiner, a NASA Social participant, attended Wednesday’s launch of the Artemis I rocket.

It’s been 54 years since the Apollo missions took the first man to the moon. This time around, NASA’s Artemis program aims to land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface. Christina Koch is one of 18 astronauts selected to be part of the Artemis mission.

“One of the coolest things about all the space planning we do right now is that we are going into an era where we know how important it is to do things for all and by all,” Koch said. “We recognize that it is not worth doing if we are not doing it for everyone. We are not truly answering humanity’s call to explore if we are not doing it together.”

The Artemis missions to the moon — three are planned — are an international effort to explore places on the moon where we haven’t gone before. These missions include the possibility of establishing a permanent human presence. French astronaut Thomas Pesquet with the European Space Agency (ESA) recalls how only 12 men have walked on the lunar surface, all from the United States, and why future moon explorers will be much more diverse.

“With ESA being part of the Artemis mission, we are looking at potential flights for European astronauts to the moon,” Pesquet said. “My generation of astronauts, and in general, have never seen humans on the moon. We are too young for that, and it will be huge for me. The step to make it more inclusive is a duty.”

Wednesday’s launch went as expected — thousands of people gathered at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where they could see, hear and feel it.

The Artemis I weighs 8.8 million pounds and is the most powerful rocket in history. NASA’s SLS is a super heavy-lift launch vehicle that provides the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. It will release the Orion capsule — Orion will stay in space for 26 days and splash down under parachutes into Pacific Ocean waters about 50 miles off the coast of San Diego, likely on Dec. 11.