The U.S. space agency NASA launched its most powerful ever rocket early Wednesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida, marking its new Artemis exploration program 50 years after the last Apollo moon mission.
The 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System (SLS) rocket took off shortly before 2 am EST on a mission to send an astronaut capsule, known as Orion, in the direction of the moon.
Orion broke off from the rocket after reaching space and it is expected to orbit the moon before returning to Earth next month. The spacecraft took a crew of three mannequins for the Artemis 1 mission. Artemis 2 and 3 will carry humans to the moon and back, with 3, scheduled for 2025 expected to land on the surface.
“For the Artemis generation, this is for you,” said launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson before takeoff.
Wednesday’s flight came after two earlier attempts at launching the multibillion-dollar rocket were aborted due to technical issues and hurricanes.