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NASA’s SLS rocket successfully launches Orion toward the Moon

After almost eighteen years of development and almost sixty billion dollars, NASA tonight finally completed the first unmanned test launch of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, lifting off at 1:41 am (Eastern).

The two solid rocket boosters functioned as planned, separating from the core stage with no problem. Then core stage and its four former shuttle engines completed its burn, putting the capsule and its upper stage into Earth orbit, and then separated cleanly. At about 30 minutes after launch the service module’s solar arrays completed their deployment. At 53 minutes after launch a 30 second burn circularized the orbit in preparation for the trans-lunar-injection (TLI) burn that will send Orion to the Moon. TLI occurred about 90 minutes after launch, after a period of check-out in orbit.

Orion will spend 26 days in space, about a week of which will be in a wide lunar orbit, testing its systems. If all goes right it will splashdown on around December 11th.

As this was the first U.S. government launch in more than a decade, since 2011 when the space shuttle was retired, the leader board for the 2022 launch race remains unchanged:

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

52 SpaceX
51 China
19 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 76 to 51 in the national rankings, and trails the rest of the world combined 79 to 76.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Lee S

    Well…. A mixed emotions event…. Half of me watched in awe as everything went A-OK , and the most powerful rocket in the world blasted off in a blaze of glory… And I feel very happy for everyone involved in the project. Go NASA!

    But then again, this is a massive PR win for the SLS, and will ensure its continued funding for probably decades to come… US taxpayers dollars that could be spent way more effectively elsewhere.

    Regardless of my cognitive dissonance, well done everyone involved in finally getting the big, beautiful beast off the ground, and up where it belongs!

  • Jeff Wright

    This was Marshall’ time to shine-and with NASA having a 71 bil’ boost on the economy-SLS was boon. And now we are set to have a man-rated craft to the Moon before China-no thanks to libertarian noise makers.

    SLS 1. Starship 0

  • john hare

    “””SLS 1. Starship 0″””

    First point on the board of a game going to 21. Taking bets??

  • Richard M

    I haven’t changed my mind one bit about SLS. But I have to admit that I shook a little, watching the SRB’s come to life. I will not assign a name to the emotion; I just know it was one I did not expect to have.

  • MDN

    I am glad all went well and it was a fine demonstration of 1970s technology at its best. But I share everyone’s lament over the exorbitant cost and how little practical value we will ever see from it other than subsidizing the legacy big space players all these years.

    Just imagine what other science NASA could have delivered with just half that money, the equivalent of 3 more JWSTs. A full constellation of LISA gravitational wave satellites. A Keck in space to replace Hubble, including optical interferometry. Deployable high bandwidth laser comms technology for deep space missions. One or two Falcon Heavy lofted first class rover missions to the lunar south pole. Etc., etc., etc..

    So I guess it’s pretty much a happy sad day leaning more toward the latter.

  • mkent

    Sorry it didn’t blow up.

  • James Stephens

    Did hell just freeze over? I’m pleased it went well but supersized.

  • Darwin Teague

    I missed it!

    Now that SLS has launched first, maybe SpaceX will be allowed to launch.

  • I believe you have your scores slightly wrong. Here, I’ll fix it for you:

    Falcon Heavy 4, SLS 1

  • Gealon

    I slept through it. Had more important things to do than watch my tax dollars literally burning, all be it, while moving in a relatively upwards direction.

    I agree with you Steve, but I add the caveat, since SLS’s mission isn’t concluded, things can still go wrong. So; Falcon Heavy-4, SLS-0.5, Starship-TBD.

  • sippin_bourbon

    An early Festivus Miracle?

    I slept through it. Was too tired to stay up.
    Will be interesting to watch the rest of the mission unfold, even though CAPSTONE and Rocketlab beat them to the moon. (tongue in cheek)

  • Shallow Minded Reader

    Pity it didn’t blow up, would have put us taxpayers out of our misery, but hey there is still Billions to Ukraine!

  • Johnhare

    Sorry Steve, I was scoring one game instead of the tournament. Mea culpa

  • Ray Van Dune

    Apparently still missing from NASA checklists: “Step 1. Ensure all propellant valves and joints are properly sealed and I tightened.”

  • Michael

    Jeff Wright – I really do not mean to be catty but I do not understand. You say “And now we are set to have a man-rated craft to the Moon”. One SLS test flight and it’s man-rated? And the flight is not even over and evaluated. At the same time we need to have “hundreds” of Starship flights before anyone dares set foot onboard. How can this be?

  • wayne

    Where’s the 2nd one? I assume it’s being actively readied to carry our brave & Diverse astronauts as they return to the Moon…

    Can somebody point me to some more-complete video of this launch?
    –>$60 billion dollars and we get a lousy tracking shot and 1968 level animation?

  • Ray Van Dune

    Re “Man-rated”: my (limited) understanding is that man-rating does not rely so much on successful accomplishment of goals, but on design safety margins, processes, and materials quality – in other words it is more intentional than demonstrable. I cannot comment on the wisdom of this, but obviously both safe development and safe demonstrated performance are desirable. Demonstrated safe performance seems to be a factor in qualification for national security DOD missions.

  • Concerned

    I applaud all the engineers that worked on this thing through the decades and made it work. It’s a pity their talents couldn’t have been put to better use by the poohbars and politicos in charge who might have had a clearer vision of how we should be using our limited resources in the quest to really exploit the Final Frontier. We can’t get the government out of this business fast enough.

  • Star Bird

    Can we send Biden and his entire cabinet to the Moon?

  • Edward

    Ray Van Dune and Michael,
    The rating comes as a result of the design and methods used. The certification comes after the evaluation of the first flight. At least, this is how they did it with the Commercial Crew contracts. NASA’s last manned rocket, the Space Transportation System, launched its first flight with a crew, which is an unusual method.

    You asked: “–>$60 billion dollars and we get a lousy tracking shot and 1968 level animation?

    The tracking shots may have been blah, but the cameras at the ends of the solar arrays gave us some good views. NASA didn’t exactly invent this viewpoint, as the first Falcon Heavy dummy payload presented similar side-angle views. One of the more interesting things that the cameras captured was the booster stage flying near the capsule: (10 seconds, look fast, it is at the top and just to the right of the middle of the screen)

    I think some better questions we should be asking are: what are the lessons we have learned from SLS? What lessons are we learning from Artemis? How can we do better in the future?

    It is clear that a rocket that can only launch annually (and even then, not until 2030 or so) is not going to usher in the future of space exploration or give us a sustainable lunar station.

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