Canceled Saturday, NASA’s rocket takeoff to the Moon will not be attempted again

published on Sunday, September 04, 2022 at 03:45

The takeoff of NASA’s new mega-rocket to the Moon may not be attempted again at the beginning of September, after it was canceled at the last moment on Saturday for the second time in a week, a failure that postpone the effective launch of the American program to return to the Moon, Artemis.

“It’s a whole new vehicle, a whole new technology, a whole new goal — going back to the Moon to prepare for a trip to Mars — – and yes, it is difficult,” the boss told a press conference. from NASA, Bill Nelson.

After the first failed test on Monday due to technical problems, the takeoff of the first test mission of Artemis 1, without an astronaut on board, this time is scheduled for Saturday at 2:17 pm local time (6:17 pm GMT), from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The “prime suspect”, he explained, is a “seal” that surrounds a piece that connects the tube through which the fuel passes and the rocket — a component designed to break as quickly as the rocket fires. . off.

The teams thought they would have to replace this seal, either directly on the launch pad, or by bringing the rocket back to its assembly building, several kilometers away.

This work thus no longer makes it possible to stop on Tuesday, when the current possible launch phase ends, due to the positions of the Earth and the Moon.

– It could be weeks late –

Another problem: the emergency self-destruct system of the rocket, which is designed to detonate it in the event of a deviated trajectory after takeoff, must a priori be tested again, and can only be tested in the assembly building.

However, transporting the rocket and taking it off will take “weeks”, says Mike Sarafin.

The next possible launch periods are from September 19 to October 4, then from October 17 to 31.

Mr. Sarafin felt it was “too early” to completely rule out the end of September, and promised a progress report next week.

NASA said the timing in early October would be complicated to coordinate, due to the planned takeoff at the same time of a crew of astronauts for the International Space Station, also from the Kennedy Space Center.

However, the tens of thousands of spectators expected on the beach on Saturday for the take-off still have to wait to watch the show.

The orange and white SLS rocket, which had never flown before, was developed for more than a decade to become the world’s most powerful.

Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, Artemis 1 should make it possible to prove that the Orion capsule, at the end of the rocket, will safely carry astronauts to the Moon in the future.

For this first mission, Orion will travel as far as 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft to date.

The main purpose is to test its heat shield, the largest ever built. When it returns to the Earth’s atmosphere, it must withstand a speed of 40,000 km/h and a temperature half as hot as the surface of the Sun.

In total, the ship had to travel about 2.1 million kilometers until it landed in the Pacific Ocean.

– Moon landing in 2025 –

The name Artemis was chosen after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo – echoing the Apollo program, which sent only white men to the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972.

This time, NASA wants to allow the first person of color and the first woman to walk on the Moon.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts to the Moon in 2024, without landing there. This award is reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, in 2025 at the earliest. NASA then wants to launch about one mission per year.

It was then a question of building a space station in lunar orbit, christened Gateway, and a base on the surface of the Moon.

There, NASA wants to test the technologies needed to send the first humans for a round trip to Mars. Such a trip, which would take several years, could be attempted at the end of the 2030s.

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