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US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s much anticipated and highly delayed rocketship blasted off on its debut flight with three test dummies aboard on Wednesday. The next generation capsule set off on a crewless voyage around the moon taking US a step closer to putting astronauts on the lunar surface, fifty years after Apollo mission. 

The follow-up program of the US Space Agency's Apollo mission lifted off with a 4 million kilogram thrust therefore also clearing a path for future human exploration on Mars. 

The liftoff marked the start of NASA’s Artemis lunar-exploration program, named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister. The space agency is aiming to send four astronauts around the moon on the next flight, in 2024, and land humans there as early as 2025.

The 322-foot (98-meter) SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA. 

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 1:47 a.m. EST (0647 GMT), according to Reuters. The launch left a beautiful reddish-orange tail of fire that formed an arch in the night to dawn sky as crowds of spectators cheered and screamed.

According to reports from NASA about 90 minutes later the rocket's upper stage propelled the Orion capsule out of Earth orbit and on its trajectory to the moon. 

"Today, we got to witness the world's most powerful rocket take the Earth by its edges and shake the wicked out of it. And it was quite a sight," Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin told a post-launch NASA briefing, using words from biblical scripture.

Aside from some minor instrument issues, "this system is performing exactly as we intended it to," Sarafin said.

“It was pretty overwhelming," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "We're going out to explore the heavens, and this is the next step."

It is to be noted that this is the third try at lift-off for the Artemis mission of NASA. Earlier attempts were made on 29  August and 3 September, which failed. The reasons for failure were cited as technical mishaps, hurricanes and two excursions trundling the spacecraft out of its hangar to the launch pad.

The Artemis I mission entails a a 25-day Orion flight bringing the capsule to within about 60 miles (97 km) of the lunar surface before flying about 40,000 miles (64,400 km) beyond the moon and looping back to Earth. The capsule is expected to splash down at sea on 11 December, according to Reuters

(With agency inputs)

 

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