The rocket carrying the capsule for astronauts to travel to the moon blasted off from Kennedy Space Center.

The spaceship is going to travel around the moon for 25 days. It doesn't have astronauts with it, but if everything goes well, NASA will send four people on the next voyage.

The rocket roared to life at 1:45 a.m. The rocket's boosters and engines roared across the swamp, generating 8.8 million pounds of thrust to propel the rocket off the launchpad and into the sky. After eight minutes and 30 seconds of burning its engines and screaming through the atmosphere, the rocket's orange, 15-story core stage unlatched from the capsule and fell into the Pacific Ocean.

illustration shows spaceship with solar panel wings flying past the far side of the moon with earth in the distance
An illustration of the Orion spacecraft circling the moon.

It's the first phase of NASA's plan to return to the moon, land astronauts on its surface, and build a permanent base there.

It took 17 years and $50 billion to put boots on the moon for the first time in 42 years. Since the moon landing isn't designed to descend to the lunar surface, the agency will use the mega-rocket, called Starship, to do the job.

Orion's first flight aims to break records and end in a fiery plummet

illustration shows orion capsule fireball streaking toward earth
An artist's illustration of the Orion capsule reentering Earth's atmosphere and plummeting toward splashdown.
NASA/Liam Yanulis

NASA repeatedly pushed the launch date back as it investigated fuel-tank issues, malfunctioning engines, and storm damage.

If everything goes according to plan, the first flight will allow lunar gravity to sling it 40,000 miles past the moon, making it the farthest humans have ever traveled. As it loops back around, it should be able to get a push back towards Earth.

Artemis 1 mission map.
Artemis I mission map.

The goal of the mission is to see if the SLS rocket can deliver the spaceship to the moon. It also wants to show that the spaceship's heat shield will protect it during the fiery-hot plummet through Earth's atmosphere and parachute into the Pacific Ocean. December 11 is when the splashdown is going to take place.

The stress of space will be assessed by measuring the amount of radiation mannequins endure during the test flight of the capsule. Several mini satellites are being launched with science missions.

If the mission goes well, Artemis II will carry astronauts around the moon. Two people would be on the moon's south pole, including the first woman and the first person of color, if Artemis III was successful. It is NASA's goal to land on the moon in 25 years.