After years of delays and several false starts, NASA's massive Space Launch System rocket and the Orion capsule lifted off at 1:48 am Eastern time, heading for a historic lunar flyby. The thunder of a NASA rocket could be heard again at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where shuttles and the Apollo missions began their journeys into space.

The rocket, including an orange core stage and two white solid rocket boosters, had rested on a ground structure called the mobile launcher. As the boosters began to ignite, the rocket lifted above an explosion of flames, and then it quickly cleared the launch tower, and then began its ascent through the atmosphere. The commentator for NASA said that the liftoff for Artemis 1 would take place. We return to the moon and beyond.

The SLS boosters fell away after two minutes. The core stage rocket separated about eight minutes after it was launched. The European Space Agency supplied the service module and upper stage rocket for the uncrewed capsule. A few minutes later, it deployed its solar array.

The capsule will leave the SLS upper stage after about two hours. The upper stage will drift away and 10 small satellites will be sent out to do mini missions around the moon, Mars, and a near-earth asteroid. While circling the moon, it will take pictures of the Earth and its satellite, as well as collect space radiation data, so that scientists can learn more about potential health risks for astronauts on extended trips beyond the Earth.

At the end of November, the spaceship will leave the moon's shadow and travel 40,000 miles beyond it before returning to Earth. It will end its trip on December 11 when it splashes down under parachutes into the ocean off the coast of San Diego.

The Artemis mission team is excited about the moment and anxious about the first moonshot since the Apollo era. I'm excited to kick off this Artemis mission series to go back to the moon and start a new era that will represent deeper space exploration and eventually to Mars. I am most looking forward to seeing that rocket take off tonight. Koch spoke before the launch about it being spectacular. Thanks to NASA's international and commercial partnerships, there will be many scientific, economic and other benefits to the Artemis program.