Many of us had doubts this day would come this soon,
but this morning at 1:47 AM EST
Artemis lifted off from complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center and cruised
into orbit as though it was a routine mission. As it basically should
have, since the differences between this and other ABF hardware (Already Been
Flown) are so small. In fact, these four RS-25 engines on the SLS Core
are all ABF hardware. All flew on previous Space Shuttle missions. The least-used of these
four flew three prior missions; the most "experienced" flew 12 space shuttle
missions. (From a graphic here)
Space.com put up a video which is a bit long at just over 11 minutes, but it's better to watch in full screen mode. By a bit long I mean it starts about two minutes before ignition and the core stage is essentially invisible by the 5:10 mark, meaning there's about three minutes of eye candy in there.
From the backyard here it was quite a sight. As ignition and liftoff took place the northern horizon was so bright I had afterimages for several minutes; I even saw them when we came inside about eight minutes later. Not as bright as sunrise, but the brightest rocket I've seen in a long time. Correction, the brightest I've ever seen because that would have been in the Shuttle era and SLS produces more thrust than the shuttle. We had clear views of SLS from the time it cleared the horizon until well after the solids dropped and it was starting to go behind the houses across the street to the east. During the last Falcon 9 launch, by contrast, there were two clouds in the sky and the rocket stayed behind one after the other for all but about 10 seconds.
I'm going to take the day to both thank and appreciate the people who actually put the ball through the hoop on this one - and those whose work just got started for the mission that's just getting started. It was a long, difficult job for the people on the pad, the people working on the hardware, software, and everyone who touched the thing. At the conclusion of the launch control coverage last night, Artemis Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson gave everyone thanks and encouragement for doing the long, hard jobs. It was well-said.
"This is your moment," she said. "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."
I was a bit surprised to hear the commentators on NASASpaceflight.com saying much the same, that finally their generation has a rocket to be proud of; a way to the moon (more or less) that hasn't existed in 50 years.