NASA’s next-generation Artemis moon launch postponed
Artemis I signals a major change in direction for NASA’s post-Apollo human spaceflight program
NASA's Artemis I mission to the moon was postponed on Saturday after engineers couldn't fix an issue related to a hydrogen leak in the hardware transferring fuel into the rocket.
In the lead-up to the mission launch, ground teams at the Kennedy Space Center in the US state of Florida began fueling NASA’s next-generation rocketship for its debut launch to the moon, five days after its initial liftoff attempt was also canceled.
The 32-story tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion capsule were due for blastoff at 18:17 GMT, kicking off the US space agency’s ambitious moon-to-Mars Artemis program 50 years after the last Apollo lunar mission.
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A previous launch bid on Monday was halted by engineering snags, but NASA said technicians remedied the issues.
Weather is an additional factor beyond NASA's control. The latest forecast saw a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions during Saturday's two-hour window, according to the US Space Force.
Before dawn, launch teams started the lengthy, delicate process of filling the rocket’s core-stage fuel tanks with several hundred thousand gallons of super-cooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant.
If the countdown were halted again, NASA could reschedule another launch attempt for Monday or Tuesday.
Dubbed Artemis I, the uncrewed test mission marks the first flight for both the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule.
It also signals a major change in direction for NASA’s post-Apollo human spaceflight program, after decades focused on low-Earth orbit with space shuttles and the International Space Station.
Named for the goddess who was Apollo's twin sister in ancient Greek mythology, Artemis aims to return astronauts to the moon's surface as early as 2025, though many experts believe that time frame will likely slip.
The new moon program has enlisted commercial partners such as SpaceX and the space agencies of Europe, Japan, and Israel.