Artemis-1: the takeoff to the Moon of the megarocket canceled due to a technical problem

Artemis-1: the takeoff to the Moon of the megarocket canceled due to a technical problem

The launch of Artemis-1, NASA’s new rocket to 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 US space agency, which will now have to target the next booking dates.

Fifty years after the last Apollo flight, 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: relive the delayed launch of the megarocket to the Moon

The next possible launch dates are September 2 and 5. But the problem will first have to be examined in detail by NASA teams before a new date can be determined.

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 rose on the 98-meter-tall, orange-and-white SLS rocket, liftoff became increasingly unlikely.

In fact, the megarocket’s tanks have been filled with more than three million liters of ultracold liquid hydrogen and oxygen. But the filling had started an hour late due to the too high risk of lightning in the middle of the night. A leak then caused a pause during the filling of the main stage with hydrogen, before a solution was found and flow resumed.

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Around 7 am local time, a new and decisive problem appeared: one of the four RS-25 engines, under the main stage of the rocket, could not reach the desired temperature, a necessary condition to be able to start it. Then the countdown 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.

“Hopes and dreams”

Thousands of people had made the trip to see the show, including US Vice President Kamala Harris. The mission aims to boost the unmanned Orion capsule into orbit around the Moon, to verify that the vehicle is safe for future astronauts, including the first woman and first person of color to walk on the lunar surface. “This mission takes away the dreams and hopes of many people”NASA chief Bill Nelson said this weekend, before adding: “Now we are the Artemis generation. »

Also read: Moon exploration: France joins NASA program

The main objective of Artemis-1 is to test the heat shield of the capsule, which will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at almost 40,000 km/h and with a temperature half that of the Sun’s surface. Instead of astronauts, there will be dummies 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 venture up to 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft to date.

A total mission failure would be devastating for a rocket with a huge budget ($4.1 billion per launch, according to a public audit) and several years behind schedule (ordered in 2010 by the US Congress for an initial liftoff date of 2017).

Aim (again) at the Moon

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

The objective is to establish a lasting 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 necessary technologies for a trip to Mars and back.

A journey of several years that could be carried out “in the late 2030s”according to Bill Nelson. But before that, going to the Moon is also strategic, against the ambitions of competing nations, in particular China.

also listen Objective Moon: the new space conquest

“We want to go to the South Pole [de la Lune]where are the resources »including water in the form of ice, Mr. Nelson detailed 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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