The launch of the new mega rocket of the POT to the Moon was delayed on Monday due to a technical problem with one of its main engines, a disappointment for the US space agency, which will now have to wait for the next possible liftoff dates.
Fifty years after the last Apollo flight, the unmanned mission Artemis 1 It will mark the beginning of the US program to return to the Moon, which is expected to eventually allow humanity to reach Mars.
The next possible takeoff dates are September 2 and 5. But the problem will have to be evaluated in detail by the teams of the POT before determining when it will occur.
The launch was originally scheduled for 08:33 (12:33 GMT) from Launch Pad 39B on the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
But as dawn broke over the huge, 98-meter-tall orange and white rocket, liftoff became increasingly unlikely.
The tanks of the rocket – the most powerful in the world – were filled overnight with more than three million liters of ultracold liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
But the supply started an hour late due to the too high risk of lightning.
A leak then caused a pause during the filling of the main segment with hydrogen, before a solution was found and flow resumed.
Around 07:00 local time, a new problem was being investigated. One of the four RS-25 motors, below the main segment of the rocket, could not reach the desired low temperature, a necessary condition to be able to ignite it.
The countdown was halted, and after more than an hour and a half of waiting while attempts were made to fix the issue, NASA Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson made the decision to cancel.
“Hopes and dreams”
Between 100,000 and 200,000 people, including US Vice President Kamala Harris, were expected to witness the liftoff live on Monday.
Fifty years after astronauts last set foot on the Moon in the Apollo 17 mission, Artemis 1 should mark the launch of the US program to return to the Moon, with a view to allowing humanity to eventually reach Mars aboard the same spacecraft. .
The goal of Artemis 1 is to test the SLS rocket and the Orion crew capsule on top of it.
Orion will be launched uncrewed into orbit around the Moon, to verify that the vehicle is safe for future astronauts, who are expected to send the first woman and first person of color to the lunar surface.
“This mission carries with it the dreams and hopes of many people,” said NASA chief Bill Nelson. “Now we are the Artemis generation.”
Two minutes after the launch of the SLS, the boosters will return to Earth to fall into the Atlantic. Eight minutes later, the main segment will separate, and about an hour and a half later, a final push will send the capsule heading for the Moon, where it will take several days to arrive.
The main objective of Artemis 1 is to test the heat shield of the capsule, which will return to the Earth’s atmosphere at almost 40,000 km/h, and at a temperature half that of the Sun’s surface.
Instead of astronauts, dummies were placed on board, equipped with sensors that record vibrations and radiation levels.
The capsule will venture up to 64,000 km behind the Moon, the furthest distance ever achieved by a spacecraft adapted to accommodate a crew.
live on the moon
“What we’re starting with this liftoff on Monday is not a short-term sprint but a long-term marathon,” said Bhavya Lal, NASA associate administrator.
After this first mission, Artemis 2 It will take astronauts to the Moon in 2024, without landing, an honor reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, but which will not be before 2025.
By that date, the idea of the POT is to launch about one mission each year with the goal of establishing a constant human presence on the Moon, building the Gateway space station to orbit around it, and setting up a base on the lunar surface.
In this scenario, humanity should learn to live in space and test the technology necessary for a multi-year round trip to Mars, which could be completed. “by the end of the 2030s”, according to Nelson.
But before that, going to the Moon is also strategic, in the face of the ambitions of competing nations, China in particular.
“We want to go to the south pole (of the Moon), where the resources are”especially water in the form of ice, Nelson told NBC.
“We don’t want China to go to that place and say ‘this is our territory.'”
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