Since August, NASA’s lunar mission Artemis 1 has gone through multiple launch delays, either due to machinery failure or natural phenomena such as Hurricane Ian and the ongoing tropical storm Nicole. And finally today, the mission’s first test launch has been initiated.
What is the mission’s payload? Artemis 1 is the name assigned to the test flight of the 322-foot Space Launch System (SLS) rocket along with the Orion space capsule that sits atop. The mission also carries several “CubeSats”(Cube Satellites) that are equipped with instruments for further investigation and experimentation.
Details of the launch: The liftoff took place at 12.17 pm IST (1.47 am EST) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with all of the rocket’s stages using internal power at 12.16 pm IST.
As the SLS rocket’s core stage main engines cut off successfully followed by the Orion spacecraft and the upper stage separating from the core stage, NASA tweeted,
Even though the flight is uncrewed, mannequins with sensors are aboard the rocket to record vibration, acceleration, and radiation levels. With the liftoff successful, Orion aims to orbit the Moon before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
At around 4 pm IST, the Orion spacecraft also managed to get some videos of Earth as shared by NASA Artemis's official Twitter handle.
The story behind the name: Artemis is named so after the Greek goddess of hunting and vegetation who is also often associated with several lunar deities like Selene (the Greek personification of the Moon). More popularly known as Diana in Roman mythology, Artemis was also the twin sister of Apollo, the Greek god of archery, music, healing and diseases, and most importantly, the Sun.
Artemis/Diana, the goddess of the hunt, shown with her bow and quiver over her shoulder. As in most artistic depictions, Artemis wears her hair swept up and out of the way in a bun, as would be expected of a woman of action engaged in hunting and tracking. @NASA #Artemis1 pic.twitter.com/8NxtIyWTDd— Gareth Harney (@OptimoPrincipi) November 16, 2022
Their duality as the Sun and the Moon reflected their opposite personalities despite being twins. With NASA categorising most of its 20th century Moon missions under the banner of Apollo, it only made sense for the American space organisation to label their new lunar mission as Artemis.
Artemis missions for the future: 2024 will be marked by a crewed flight of four astronauts to the Moon, the program christened as Artemis 2. The mission is set to orbit the Moon but not land on the surface (a pattern reminiscent of the Apollo 8 mission from 1968). Names of the members of Artemis 2 will be revealed before the end of this year.
Following this, Artemis 3 is expected to be launched around 2025 or 2026, sending astronauts to the Moon’s surface, the first time since 1972’s Apollo 17 mission.