At 1:47 a.m. Wednesday, the ground shook as night surrendered to day in the skies above Cape Canaveral. A massive rocket rode a column of flame out of Earth’s orbital grasp, carrying with it the Orion spacecraft that will, in the course of a 26-day mission, take the first giant step toward the day when a human walks, once again, on the surface of the moon.

After two scrubbed launches that pushed the first Artemis mission back two and a half months, it was a heart-stopping moment that many feared would never come. But nine hours later, NASA revealed images of Orion, free of the mighty Space Launch System rocket with its projecting solar arrays deployed, more than 56,000 miles into its multi-day journey toward the moon. In the background, a small blue and white orb — “You’re seeing there, on your screen, our first Earth views captured from a human rated spacecraft … since 1972,” NASA commentator Sandra Jones says on NASA’s video of Orion’s first “imagery event.”

”World’s most expensive selfie,” was the response of one Twitter user. It’s not off-point: The projected price tag of the Artemis program, culminating in 2025 with the first crewed lunar mission, is $93 billion.

And worth it. The objective of the Artemis I mission is to test the success of a crew-capable vessel that can safely transport humans to the moon and bring them home; for now, the capsule’s human payload is represented by two “phantom torsos” designed to test the impact of each stage on a human body, a full-sized, space-suited figure nicknamed Moonikin Campos (referencing Arturo Campos, an engineer who played a critical role in rescuing astronauts after a fuel-cell explosion in the Apollo 13 mission) equipped with sensors — and a stuffed Snoopy doll.

NASA’s Artemis 1 lifts off from launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., carrying the Orion spacecraft on a mission to orbit the moon, early Wednesday, November 16, 2022. The Orion capsule is scheduled to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 11 after 25 days in space. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

But someday — someday soon — that crew will consist of four human beings. And these missions test more than their safety. They test humankind’s collective resolve to keep pushing, step after step, into the vast expanse of space. To learn about our own capabilities and limitations. To inspire future generations to keep pushing forward, with a united ingenuity that emphasizes what humanity has in common: A thirst for knowledge and a determination to keep taking steps outward into the universe.

As Orion races away from the Earth, it takes us further toward the time when humans colonize the moon and first set foot on Mars — a milestone that could be just a few decades away.

People around the globe need this kind of hope — this reminder of the great things human beings can accomplish, this determination to keep taking that next step. For now, we can watch as Orion circles the moon and then prepares to return safely to Earth. And then we can look toward the next step — and the next.

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Opinion Editor Krys Fluker, Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson and Viewpoints Editor Jay Reddick. Contact us at