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Canceled on Saturday, the takeoff of the NASA rocket to the Moon will not be retried quickly

<p>Nasa’s SLS rocket on its launch pad after the cancellation of the launch on September 3, 2022 at Kennedy Space Center (Florida)</p>
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<p class=The takeoff of NASA’s new mega-rocket to the Moon will not be able to be attempted again in the coming days, after its cancellation at the last moment on Saturday for the second time in a week, a setback which postpones the effective launch of the American program to return to the Moon, Artemis.

The period currently allowing a launch, determined by the positions of the Earth and the Moon, ends on Tuesday, but a possibility of liftoff by then “is no longer on the table”, a press conference said. Jim Free, associate administrator at NASA, without announcing a possible new date for the moment.

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

Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, the new Artemis flagship program should make it possible to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon, then allowing it to be used as a springboard to Mars.

After a first failed attempt on Monday, the launch of the first Artemis 1 test mission, without an astronaut on board, was this time scheduled for Saturday at 2:17 p.m. local time (6:17 p.m. GMT), with a two-hour firing window, from the Kennedy Space Center. , in Florida.

But NASA teams failed to solve a fuel leak problem, which started during the filling operations of the rocket tanks. Shortly after 11 a.m., launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson made the decision to cancel.

Shortly before 6 a.m. local time, she gave the go-ahead to begin filling the rocket’s tanks with its cryogenic fuel — ultra-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen.

<p>Descriptive diagram of NASA’s Orion capsule, which as part of the American Artemis program will transport astronauts to the Moon and bring them back to Earth</p>
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<p class=But around 7:15 a.m., a leak was detected at the foot of the rocket, at the level of the pipe through which the highly flammable liquid hydrogen passes to the tank. Despite several attempts, it could not be repaired.

The leak was described as “big” by Mike Sarafin, in charge of the mission at NASA.

On Monday, during a first attempt, the launch was also canceled at the last moment due to technical problems, including a similar leak that could be overcome.

Canceling the takeoff “is absolutely the right decision” to take in the event of a leak, astronaut Victor Glover, present on the spot, reacted to journalists on Saturday. With these repeated tests, which make it possible to better understand this new vehicle, “people’s confidence should increase, not decrease”, he argued.

– Six weeks in space –

The orange and white SLS rocket, which has never flown before, has been in development for more than a decade to become the most powerful in the world.

Artemis 1 should make it possible to verify that the Orion capsule, at the top of the rocket, is safe to transport astronauts in the future.

Thanks to this new vessel, the American space agency intends to reconnect with distant human exploration, the Moon being 1,000 times further away than the International Space Station.

<p>Nasa’s new SLS rocket, with the unmanned Orion capsule on top, on September 2, 2022 before takeoff for the Artemis 1 mission</p>
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<p class=The trip is expected to last about six weeks in total. Orion will venture up to 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft so far.

The main purpose of Artemis 1 is to test the capsule’s heat shield, the largest ever built. On its return to the Earth’s atmosphere, it will have to withstand a speed of 40,000 km/h and a temperature half as hot as that of the surface of the Sun.

In total, the ship must travel some 2.1 million kilometers until it lands in the Pacific Ocean.

– Moon landing in 2025 –

The complete success of the mission would be a relief for NASA, which originally counted on a first launch in 2017 for SLS, and will have invested by the end of 2025 more than 90 billion dollars in its new lunar program, according to a public audit.

The name Artemis was chosen after a female figure, 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.

<p>Main aspects of the American Artemis program</p>
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<p class=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 carry astronauts to the Moon in 2024, without landing there. This honor will be reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, in 2025 at the earliest. NASA then wants to launch about one mission per year.

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

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