While the mission was years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, the flight provided some validation of the traditional government-run approach that NASA took for the development of the complex space hardware.
“From my standpoint, it certainly measures up to the expectations, if not more,” said Jeff Bingham, a former senior Republican aide on the Senate subcommittee that shaped legislation in 2010 directing NASA to build the Space Launch System. “I feel good about the fact that what we intended is coming to fruition.”
Even Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA who favored turning to private companies to come up with more innovative rocket designs that might have been built faster and cheaper, acknowledged that the Artemis I flight went smoothly.
“It’s fantastic that it is working,” she said. “It’s a huge relief, and excitement, at NASA.”
The space agency now appears to be in good shape to launch the next mission, Artemis II, as planned in 2024. That flight will send four astronauts to the moon, without landing, and then back to Earth.
The moon landing is planned for the third Artemis mission, in which the Space Launch System and Orion will ferry four astronauts to a large looping orbit around the moon. That task will not require capabilities beyond those demonstrated during Artemis I and Artemis II.
Manufacturing the hardware for those missions is already well underway. The Orion capsule for Artemis II is already mostly built at the Kennedy Space Center. The service module for Orion, built by Airbus as part of the European Space Agency’s contributions to the moon missions, was delivered last year. This weekend, the bottom section for the rocket that will launch Artemis III arrived at Kennedy for installation.
But Artemis III will hinge on a third requisite piece: a lander built by SpaceX. And for that part of the mission, Mr. Musk’s company will have to pull off a series of technological marvels that have never been achieved before.