the mega-rocket’s Moon launch was canceled due to a technical problem

The launch of Artemis-1, NASA’s new rocket for the Moon, the most powerful in the world, was canceled on Monday August 29 due to a technical problem. This is a disappointment for the American space agency, which must now focus on the next fallback dates.

Fifty years after the last flight of Apollo, the Artemis-1 mission should mark the beginning of the American program to return to the Moon, which should allow humanity to reach the planet Mars.

Also read: Artemis-1: restore the delayed launch of the mega-rocket to the Moon

The next possible take-off dates are September 2 and 5. But the problem must first be examined in detail by NASA teams before a new date is determined.

The launch was originally scheduled for 8:33 am (2:33 pm Paris time) from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. But as the sun dawned on the orange and white SLS rocket, 98 meters tall, liftoff became impossible.

The megarocket’s tanks are actually filled with more than three million liters of ultracold liquid hydrogen and oxygen. But the filling started about an hour late because of the high risk of lightning in the middle of the night. Then a leak caused a stop during the filling of the main stages with hydrogen, before a solution was found and the flow continued.

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Around 7 a.m. local time, a new, decisive problem arose: one of the four RS-25 engines, under the rocket’s main stage, could not reach the desired temperature, a necessary condition to turn it on. The countdown was immediately stopped, and after more than an hour and a half of waiting and trying to fix the problem, NASA launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson made the decision to cancel.

“Dreams and Hopes”

Thousands of people traveled to watch the show, including the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. The mission aims to push the unmanned Orion capsule into orbit around the Moon, to prove that the vehicle is safe for future astronauts, including the first woman and the first person of color to walk on the lunar surface. “This mission brings the dreams and hopes of many people”NASA boss Bill Nelson said this weekend, before adding: “We are now the generation of Artemis. »

Also read: Exploration of the Moon: France participates in the NASA program

The main purpose of Artemis-1 is to test the heat shield of the capsule, which will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at about 40,000 km/h and have a temperature half that of the surface of the Sun. Instead of astronauts, mannequins are on board, equipped with sensors that record vibrations and radiation levels. Microsatellites will also be deployed to study the Moon, or even an asteroid. The capsule will travel up to 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, further than any other habitable spacecraft to date.

A complete mission failure would be disastrous for a rocket with a huge budget (4.1 billion per launch, according to a public audit) and several years late (ordered in 2010 by Congress in America for an initial takeoff date of 2017).

Aim (again) for the Moon

After this first mission, Artemis-2 will take astronauts to the Moon in 2024, without landing there. This is an honor reserved for the crew of Artemis-3, in 2025 at the earliest. NASA then wants to launch about one mission per year.

The goal is to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon, with the construction of a space station in orbit around it (Gateway) and a base on the surface. In this station, humanity must learn to live in deep space and develop all the technologies necessary for a round trip to Mars.

A journey of several years that can happen “by the end of the 2030s”, according to Bill Nelson. But before that, going to the Moon is also strategic, facing the ambitions of competing countries, especially China.

Listen too Target Moon: the new conquest of space

“We want to go to the South Pole [de la Lune]where are the resources »including water in the form of ice, detailed Mr. Nelson on NBC on Sunday. “We don’t want China to go there and say ‘this is our territory’. »

The World with AFP

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