NASA has released a breathtaking video of Earth taken from the Orion capsule as it lifted off this morning in the Artemis I mission.
The uncrewed spacecraft began its 25-day mission around the moon at 2.00am EST (7:00am GMT) today onboard the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
Space fans lined the beaches and roads outside the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the historic launch of the $4 billion (£3.5 billion) mission.
The 24-second clip shows the outline of our planet slowly shrinking away in the distance as the rocket accelerated to 12,000 mph (19,000 kph).
The official Twitter account for Artemis wrote: ‘As @NASA_Orion begins the #Artemis I mission to the Moon, the spacecraft captured these stunning views of our home planet.’
Artemis I is designed to show that the SLS and Orion capsule are ready to carry astronauts to the moon in subsequent Artemis II and Artemis III missions.
The 24-second clip shows the outline of our planet slowly shrinking away in the distance as the rocket accelerated to 12,000 mph (19,000 kph)
Artemis I was successfully launched just before 2.00am EST this morning on a 25-day mission around the moon
This Artemis 1 mission will see the Orion capsule circle the moon and return to our planet after a 1.3 miIlion-mile voyage.
It signals the first stage of the US space agency’s goal to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century.
If successful, the mission will be followed by a crewed trip around the moon in 2024, while a further mission in 2025 hopes to see human boots grace the lunar surface.
This would be the first time people have walked on the moon since 1972, and could include the first woman and first person of colour to do so.
NASA’s ultimate plan is to build a permanent lunar outpost with a view to exploring deeper into the cosmos.
Social media users have been responding in awe to the video taken from the Orion capsule during lift-off, which has been described as ‘absolutely beautiful’.
However, others have been tagging the Flat Earth Society in response to it, keen to hear its members’ explanations to the view of our planet’s curved outline.
Twitter user @Td91345887 brands the clip as ‘fake’ and that Earth ‘got a graphics change’.
Social media users have been responding in awe to the video taken from the Orion capsule during lift-off, which has been described as ‘absolutely beautiful’. However, others have been tagging the Flat Earth Society in response to it, keen to hear its members’ explanations to the view of our planet’s curved outline
Artemis is a historic launch that signals the first stage of NASA’s goal to return people to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century
The plan is to return humans to the moon on Artemis III by 2025 and ultimately to build a permanent lunar outpost with a view to exploring deeper into the cosmos
Space fans lined the beaches and roads outside the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the historic launch of the $4 billion (£3.5 billion) mission
WHAT IS ONBOARD ARTEMIS I?
This mission has no humans on board but a trio of human-sized test dummies stand in for the crew in the Orion capsule, their bodies swarming with sensors to measure radiation and vibration.
NASA has also revealed an Official Flight Kit list of items it sent on Artemis I, including 245 silver Snoopy pins, 567 American flags, a Dead Sea pebble and a cuddly version of cartoon dog Snoopy.
Soft toys actually serve a useful function on space missions, floating around as a ‘zero-gravity indicator’ to show when the spacecraft interior has reached the weightlessness of microgravity.
A small piece of moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission also joined the ride, along with a patch and a bolt from Neil Armstrong’s iconic mission, to help connect the Apollo legacy to the Artemis program.
Artemis I even carries a variety of tree and plant seeds, too, as part of tests to study how they are affected by space radiation.
Cultivating plants in space is regarded as a critical factor in allowing humans to thrive during longer space missions, providing not only food but oxygen.
A cuddly version of cartoon dog Snoopy is on board Artemis I
This morning’s Artemis launch did not go without a hitch as, in the final few hours before lift-off, engineers was sent to the launch pad to tighten some bolts and stop a fuel leak.
However, at 01:47 EST (06:47 GMT), the rocket’s four main R-25 engines and two boosters pushed the 32-storey rocket into the sky with 8.8 million pounds of thrust.
‘We rise together, back to the moon and beyond,’ said NASA’s official commentator as the rocket took off.
About ten minutes later, the engines of the SLS rocket powered off and the core stage separated, as Artemis entered the Earth’s orbit.
Then, at 03:42 (08:42 GMT), NASA announced that the Orion capsule – now flying solo – had completed its 20-minute ‘trans-lunar injection manoeuvre’.
This accelerated it to more than 22,600 mph (36,370 kph) and propelled it towards the moon.
Artemis’ launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson told her cheering colleagues: ‘You are part of a first – it doesn’t come along very often, once in a career, maybe.
‘We are all part of something incredibly special: the first launch of Artemis. The first step in returning our country to the moon and on to Mars. What you have done today will inspire generations to come.’
Ms Blackwell-Thompson added in a statement: ‘On behalf of all the men and women across our great nation who have worked to bring this hardware together to make this day possible, and for the Artemis generation, this is for you.’
The mega-rocket has faced numerous delays up to now, with its maiden launch date repeatedly pushed back since August.
Its first attempt was scrubbed after controllers struggled to get an engine cooled down to its correct operating temperature.
A second attempt at the start of September was then hampered by a fuel leak, before Storm Ian pushed it back to October at the end of that month.
The launch date was then changed again to November 14, before settling on November 16.
There were concerns that this launch date could slip again pending post-storm inspections, after the SLS was battered by gusts of up to 100mph while exposed to the might of Hurricane Nicole last week.
The 322ft (98m) rocket suffered damage after officials chose to leave it on the launch pad rather than wheel it back to the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The storm caused a tear in the engine rain covers and water to enter the crew access arm, but NASA said that these were ‘minor’ problems and did not delay launch.
Artemis sees an Orion spacecraft circle the Earth’s natural satellite and return to our planet after a 1.3 miIlion-mile voyage
The journey takes a few days and Orion will get as close as 60 miles (100km) from the lunar surface before firing its thrusters to move into orbit up to 40,000 miles (64,000km) away
Ten shoebox-size secondary payloads, called CubeSats, are hitching a ride to space on Artemis I, while several other investigations are flying inside the Orion spacecraft (pictured) during the flight test
Named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, Artemis signifies the modern incarnation of NASA’s Apollo programme, which sent astronauts to the moon for the first time.
Its four RS-25 engines can power the rocket to speeds of up to 24,500 mph and propel it out of low-Earth orbit to the moon some 240,000 miles away.
The journey takes a few days and Orion will get as close as 60 miles (100km) from the lunar surface before firing its thrusters to move into orbit up to 40,000 miles (64,000km) away.
Ten shoebox-size secondary payloads, called CubeSats, are hitching a ride to space on Artemis I, while several other investigations are flying inside the Orion spacecraft during the flight test.
Each of the payloads will perform science and technology experiments in deep space, expanding our understanding of lunar science, technology developments, and deep space radiation.
During re-entry, Orion will emerge into the Earth’s atmosphere at 25,000mph before splashing down off the California coast.
NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2025 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.