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NASA’s Alabama built Moon rocket blasts off, at last

NASA Moon Rocket
John Raoux/AP
NASA's new moon rocket lifts off from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. This launch is the first flight test of the Artemis program. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

NASA's new moon rocket blasted off on its debut flight, fifty years after the historic Apollo lunar flights carried twelve astronauts to the surface of Earth’s nearest neighbor in space. The Artemis rocket carries the Orion crew capsule. Both vehicles were designed, and are managed, at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The gumdrop shaped spacecraft carries three test dummies aboard to measure the stresses and temperatures that actual crewmembers will face once the rocket and capsule are certified as safe to carry people. The Florida launch brings the U.S. a big step closer to putting astronauts back on the lunar surface for the first time since the end of the Apollo program 50 years ago. If all goes well with the three-week flight, the crew capsule will be propelled into a wide orbit around the moon, before returning to Earth with a Pacific splashdown in December. NASA hopes to send four astronauts around the moon on a test flight in 2024, and land humans there as early as 2025. That would be the first time humans have walked on the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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