Lockheed Martin employees gathered before sun-up to watch their years of labor pay off with what they hoped would be a successful launch in Florida.
“We’ve had a lot of folks work on this for a long time. It’s kind of a day of celebration really for this test flight,” says a Lockheed employee.
The Orion spacecraft that will eventually carry astronauts back to the moon was built here in Colorado.
“This is one of those things where you’re gonna look back on later in life and say hey I was a part of that,” says another employee.
“There hasn’t been a mission like this for 50 years.”
Man last set foot on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission back in 1972. NASA then scaled back its space ambitions. Now, powered by the huge new Space Launch System rocket, the lunar surface is firmly in its sights again. The un-crewed Artemis 1 mission will loop Orion around the moon before it returns home six weeks later.
“We need to learn about the vehicles before we put crew on them for Artemis 2. It also sets us up long term at the moon,” says Jim Free, a NASA Assoc. Administrator.
A moon base and a trip to Mars are part of NASA’s eventual plans.
This initial mission will test a host of new technologies, longer-term radiation exposure as well as Orion’s heat shield during reentry back to Earth.
Risks will be taken.
“We would be go on this flight for conditions that we would normally be no go for on a crewed flight in the interest of crew safety,” says Mike Sarafin an Artemis 1 Mission Manager.
But on this morning, an engine-cooling issue forced the flight to be called off.
“We don’t launch unless it’s right,” says NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
Provided the issue is resolved, they’ll try again later this week.
“We have another launch window on Friday. Still excited. It’s gonna happen,” an employee hopes.
Until then, patience… those who’ve worked on Orion have waited this long.