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Launch of NASA rocket to the moon postponed again

<p>The press puts away its equipment after the announcement of the cancellation of the takeoff Saturday of NASA’s new mega-rocket for the Moon</p>
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<p class=The takeoff of NASA’s new mega-rocket to the Moon was again canceled on Saturday at the last moment, for the second time in less than a week, causing another delay in the launch of the American Artemis program, which should allow humans to return to the Moon.

Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, this new 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.

The launch of the first Artemis 1 test mission, without an astronaut on board, was initially scheduled for 2:17 p.m. local time (6:17 p.m. GMT), with a two-hour launch window, from Kennedy Space Center, 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.

“The cancellation is absolutely the right decision,” reacted to journalists astronaut Victor Glover, present on the spot. With these repeated tests, which make it possible to better understand this new vehicle, “people’s confidence should increase, not decrease”, he argued.

– Flammable hydrogen –

A new attempt could possibly take place on Monday or Tuesday, but NASA will have to analyze all the parameters before deciding on a new date. She had previously indicated that after Tuesday, the rocket should, whatever happens, return to its assembly building, in order to undergo tests to be carried out periodically. A time-consuming operation.

Space agency officials are due to meet in the afternoon before giving a press conference.

“They’re going to assess if there’s still a possibility now,” NASA boss Bill Nelson said on the agency’s video broadcast. Otherwise, “it will be an October liftoff”, he said, specifying that it would rather be mid-October, because a crew must take off at the beginning of the month from the same space center for the Station. international space.

<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=The orange and white SLS rocket, which should have had its first flight on Saturday, has been in development for more than a decade to become the most powerful in the world.

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

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.

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.

– Six weeks in space –

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.