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Stunning pink moon sets behind Artemis 1 just before it rolls off the pad

The pink moon sets behind NASA's Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket on Saturday, April 16, 2022. (Image credit: Michael Seeley/We Report Space)

A powerful new photo shows NASA's Artemis 1 rocket on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, backdropped by its destination: the moon, shining in pink.

Photographer Michael Seeley captured the image of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket (with the Orion spacecraft on top) on Saturday (April 16) from a boat off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean, several miles offshore from the launch pad, he told Space.com in an email. Seeley was lucky to see the rocket on the pad, as it is about to be rolled back to a processing facility due to a series of technical glitches during testing.

"The images were captured with a sizable telephoto lens, 700mm, from a boat in the Atlantic. We are approximately seven miles offshore, and the water wasn't calm at all, with two to four foot swells," he said.

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Seeley co-founded the site We Report Space and occasionally contributes to National Geographic. Still, he shared, obtaining the image was no easy feat.

"Because I was shooting with a telephoto lens," Seeley said, "my main thought was about trying to keep the rocket in the frame as I was being jostled around; standing was nearly impossible. From a technical and physical standpoint, it was one of the more challenging photos I've captured."

But, while the conditions were challenging, Seeley said that watching the moon move towards the horizon behind Launch Pad 39B "was truly magical."

"It was also difficult," Seeley added, "to wrap my head around the fact that I'm looking at something very near — the Orion spacecraft — that will one day travel to the moon, a quarter of a million miles behind it. It's really mind-blowing." 

Artemis 1's Space Launch System was attempting to complete a "wet dress rehearsal" that began April 1, but after several failed attempts at fueling, the team has decided to roll the stack off Pad 39B and back to KSC's Vehicle Assembly Building to replace a faulty valve and address a leaky umbilical.

Once those issues are addressed and Artemis 1 completes the crucial test, it will be cleared for a planned mission to the moon later this year. Riding atop the rocket will be an Orion spacecraft filled with experiments and mannequins.

If all goes to plan, NASA will fly the first astronauts aboard an SLS in 2024 for Artemis 2, which will also orbit the moon. Then the crewed Artemis 3 should send astronauts to the lunar south pole no earlier than 2025, NASA has said.

If you'd like to snap a good photo of a future full moon, check out our guide on how to photograph the moon.  Our overview on the best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography can help you get started finding equipment. 

And if you'd just like to observe the moon, our guides for the best telescopes and best binoculars can help you find the gear you need.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.