NASA launched the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 16, and as Orion is heading on a journey around the Moon, officials have inspected the launch pad for any potential damage caused by the rocket's lift off.
The successful launch made the SLS rocket the world's most powerful rocket, with nearly 9 million pounds of thrust. On November 16, the SLS pushed the Orion spacecraft on its reconnaissance journey around the Moon, marking the first stage of NASA's Artemis missions, which will put US citizens back on the surface of Earth's neighbor. NASA declared the launch a success, and is now inspecting the launch pad to see how it can minimize any damage for future launches.
NASA's Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission manager, in a press conference with reporters on Monday, November 21, said the damage caused by Artemis 1's liftoff is isolated to just a few different areas of the launch pad, and that the vital parts of the launch pad weren't damaged. Sarafin said that while Artemis 1 used water suppression to reduce the sound, as well as the damage from the rocket's launch, the force generated by the rocket peeled the paint off the launch pad.
Additionally, the Artemis 1 mission manager explained that the elevator doors in the mobile launch tower, used to perform maintenance on the launch pad, were blown off their hinges, making them inoperable. These elevator doors were ripped off by the shockwaves generated by the SLS engines, and according to Sarafin, NASA is working on getting the elevators back in service.
NASA writes on its blog that November 22 is day seven of Artemis 1's journey, with the Orion spacecraft now exiting the gravitational pull of the Moon and moving toward a distant retrograde orbit. On its sixth day, the Orion spacecraft has passed just 80 miles above the surface of the Moon, putting it in position to get into that retrograde orbit. All of the data that NASA collects with the Orion capsule, including flight data, technology demonstrations, and more, will be used in future Artemis missions that'll eventually put humans back on the surface of the Moon.