In pictures: NASA’s Artemis 1 heads for the Moon


NASA’s long-awaited Artemis 1 mission has finally launched successfully from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, after months of setbacks and delays. It is the first mission in a large programme to send astronauts to the Moon, using the most powerful rockets ever built.

This first Artemis launch is uncrewed, but will see the Orion spacecraft travel to the Moon, orbit around it and then return to Earth. Artemis 2 will follow in May 2024, and this time will be crewed.

The mission is the first step to constructing the habitable Lunar Gateway in space, and also aims to take humans back to the Moon, which is tentatively scheduled for 2025, using Artemis 3.

Artemis 4 will hope to take four astronauts up to the Lunar Gateway in 2027, establishing a space station that will orbit the Moon. In the long-term, as well as aiding lunar exploration, it is hoped that the Lunar Gateway will be the launching point for a crewed mission to Mars.

Orion’s belting

Spaceship in factory

After months of rigorous testing in the world’s premier space environments simulation facility at NASA’s Plum Brook Station, Ohio, USA, the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission was certified, and took another step towards being ready for flight. The test campaign, which was completed in March 2020, subjected the spacecraft to the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic conditions it will endure during its uncrewed test flight around the Moon. Orion is the part of the craft that will house astronauts of the Artemis mission, and is complete reusable. Photo by NASA/Marvin Smith

Some assembly required

Rocket construction in huge hanger

Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs are pictured here as they prepare to integrate NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the massive SLS core stage on the mobile launcher. This process took place in NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, on 22 June 2021. Photo by NASA/Frank Michaux

The engine room

Rocket engines close up

In this image, the Artemis I Space Launch System main engines are pictured inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, on 10 January 2022. Artemis I is the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at the Kennedy facility. In later missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of colour on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence. Photo by NASA/Corey Houston

Leaving home

Rocket leaves the assembly building

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, with the Orion capsule atop, slowly rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 17 March 2022, on its journey to Launch Complex 39B. Carried on the crawler-transporter 2, NASA’s Moon rocket is venturing out to the launch pad for a wet dress rehearsal ahead of the uncrewed Artemis I launch. Photo by NASA/Kim Shiflett

Rolling Out

Rocket travelling to launch pad

The Artemis I Moon rocket arrives at Launch Pad 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA on 6 June 2022. The rocket travelled the 7km to the launch pad for a ‘wet’ rehearsal, ahead of the first launch attempt on 29 August 2022. Photo by NASA/Ben Smegelsky

More images from Science Focus:

The light of the silvery Moon

Super Moon Launch pad

A full Moon is in view behind Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, on 14 June 2022. The Artemis I Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft were being prepared for a wet dress rehearsal to practice timelines and procedures for launch. Photo by NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Are you sitting comfortably?

Seat testing Artemis cabin

A Moonikin (a male-bodied manikin) called Campos is secured in a seat inside the Artemis I Orion crew module, in order to test the crew cabin seating on 3 August 2022. Photo by NASA/Frank Michaux

Chocks away

Looking down at rocket from above

Looking down at the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, on 16 August 2022. In this image, all of the work platforms have been retracted in preparation for rollout to Launch Complex 39B, ahead of the first attempted launch of Artemis I. Photo by NASA/Kim Shiflett

Artemis on the move

rocket leaving huge assembly building

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen as it rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B, on 16 August 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. Photo by NASA/Joel Kowsky

We are going… but not just yet

Astronauts and rocket launch pad

Astronauts and astronaut candidates from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency pose for a photograph in front of NASA’s Artemis I Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on the pad at Launch Complex 39B on 28 August 2022, shortly before a decision was taken to postpone the launch due to engine sensor problems the next day. A second launch attempt on 3 September 2022 was also postponed due to a faulty fuel line, which required further investigation. Photo by NASA/Kim Shiflett

All systems stop

Countdown clock stopped

With the countdown clock halted, Artemis I sits at pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, on 3 September 2022. This second launch attempt was due to a faulty fuel line. Photo by Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service/Getty Images

Back to the drawing board

Rocket on a rich blue background

The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket is rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, on 27 September 2022. As Florida braced for Hurricane Ian, the decision was taken to protect the rocket from potential damage by moving it from the launchpad. It also allowed further investigation work on the faulty fuel line that had scuppered the second launch attempt. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Launch control

Artemis launch director

Artemis I Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson monitors operations from her position in Firing Room 1, as Artemis teams conduct a launch simulation for the Artemis I mission inside the Rocco A Petrone Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, on 27 October 2022. Photo by NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Let’s try that again

rocket near launchpad at night

The Crawler Transporter-2 carrying the rocket begins to climb the ramp at Launch Pad 39B, on 4 November 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. Photo by NASA/Joel Kowsky

Ready for the big screen debut

Artemis launch video screen at sunset

A large video screen is set up prior to the launch of the Artemis 1 Moon rocket and the Orion spacecraft, on 13 November 2022 at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA. Photo by Red Huber/Getty Images

We have lift off!

Rocket launches into space

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard lifts off at 07:47 CEST from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA on 16 November 2022. The most powerful rocket ever built sent NASA’s Orion spacecraft and ESA’s European Service Module (ESM) to a journey beyond the Moon and back. No crew will be on board Orion this time, and the spacecraft will be controlled by teams on Earth. Photo by ESA



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