At 1:47 Eastern time this morning, NASA’s $20+ billion rocket finally left its launch pad:
Launch starts about 3:16:54 into the video.
The SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule have their roots all the way back into the early 2000s, as NASA prepared for a post-shuttle world.1 It’s taken longer — and cost more — than expected, but now NASA has a vehicle capable of returning crew to the moon.
There are a lot of complex issues around this rocket, including the fact that SpaceX is well on its way to building its own vehicle in this class. There is an argument to be made that NASA should focus on science and exploration, and let companies like SpaceX and ULA manage all the launch vehicle hardware, but for today, I’m just glad to see this thing make it off the ground for the first time.
If you want to keep up with how the mission goes, be sure to check out NASA’s Artemis blog. It has its own RSS feed and everything.
- In fact, much of the SLS itself is made of recycled and upgraded shuttle hardware. The idea was that by re-using flight-proven hardware designs, the rocket could be built more quickly and for less money. ↩