NASA Michoud workers beam as Artemis heads to the moon
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Thousands of people stayed up last night to watch the first launch of a U.S. rocket to the moon in more than 50 years. None were more proud than hundreds of New Orleanians who took part in building the Artemis rocket right here in New Orleans.
After weeks of delays, the 322-foot tall Artemis rocket, the biggest ever built, lit up the nighttime sky on Florida’s east coast at 12:47 a.m. on Wed., Nov. 16.
This rocket to the moon was propelled into space with more than nine million pounds of thrust from recycled shuttle engines assembled in New Orleans at Michoud and tested in southern Mississippi at Stennis.
“I was excited it’s been a milestone we’ve been trying to do for a long time and it sets the stage for the long-term program,” said Lonnie Dutreix who runs Michoud‘s rocket assembly plant, a facility that employs 1500 local workers who had a hand in building the largest rocket ever launched.
“All those individuals have their fingerprints and contributed to the success of it,” said Dutreix.
Around 15,000 people were on hand to witness the early morning launch off pad 39b, and NASA administrators say early analytics are good.
“I’m telling you we’ve never seen such a tale of flames,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
The launch was originally set for late August. One early delay was due to a hydrogen leak caused by a pressurization issue.
“They did the right thing, they backed up, increased pressure, and sealed it better,” Dutreix says.
Other delays were caused by hurricanes, but in the end, Artemis one had a perfect takeoff and has so far performed well. But the unmanned mission to the moon still has 25 days to go, and the work of the 1,500 local rocket builders is far from over.
“Until the capsule comes back and all the data is analyzed, we’re really not finished,” said Dutreix.
With four more Artemis rockets already budgeted for, hundreds of local workers will continue to build spacecraft that will ultimately return humans to the Moon... and then Mars.
The Artemis 1 mission will last 25 days, with splashdown in the Pacific Ocean scheduled for Dec. 11. Artemis 2 is already well under construction at Michoud.
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