HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – We have liftoff! Hundreds of people gathered early Wednesday morning to watch the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft (more commonly known as ‘Artemis I’) launch into space!
At approximately 12:47 a.m., the moon rocket left the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and began its 25-day mission in space. A moment in history for Huntsvillians and the space industry!
“To come here at midnight, this shows a tremendous amount of excitement,” NASA retiree and current USSPC docent Richard B. Hoover told News 19. “Huntsville, Alabama is still truly the Rocket City.”
A leak in a valve on the mobile launch pad and a bad switch on the radar may have temporarily delayed Wednesday’s launch, but despite the late hour, people from around the world stood in the USSRC Saturn V Hall and cheered as Artemis I headed for space.
“I said, ‘we have to go, and we have to see it,'” international Space Camp student Diana Guzman told News 19. “I’ve never been outside of my country for any special rocket or space party, so it was very exciting. It’s kind of my first space party.”
The SLS makes history as the first heavy launch, lunar capable vehicle to launch in 50 years.
“An enormous amount of work has been being done by the scientists and engineers at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and actually all over the country to get the Artemis built, down to the cape, and now flown into space on its way to the moon,” Hoover said.
Rocket City has deep ties to the space program. Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center has historically led NASA’s propulsion and flight technology research. Many local engineers contributed to the development of the SLS.
“Our team is responsible for the design, the development, the certification, and the operation of the core stage,” said Josh Whitehead, Marshal Space Flight Associate Manager for the Stages Elements Office. “The core stage provides the backbone for the vehicle. It’s the largest cryogenic propulsion stage in the history of propulsion, in the history of space exploration. It’s an amazing, amazing vehicle.”
USSRC Senior Director of Public and Media Relations Pat Ammons said North Alabama’s ties to the space program are a big part of why local reactions to the launch were so enthusiastic.
“To see it launch and come off that launch pad was absolutely exhilarating,” Ammons said. “The only place that would have been better to watch it than in this hall would be down at the cape, but if you couldn’t be there, there was no better place to be than here in the Saturn V Hall.”
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Ammons estimates 700 people gathered in the Space and Rocket Center to watch NASA’s official live broadcast.
“All my childhood was dreaming of something like this moment,” international Space Camp student Jose Loyola said. “I saw the Apollos on the TV. At this moment, it’s in front of my eyes, and it’s amazing.”
The flight is set to last 25 days from liftoff to splashdown, and when the spacecraft returns to Earth, it will have traveled 1.3 million miles.