The second attempt to take the first step towards reconquering the Moon is delayed by a day. NASA has preferred to be cautious and will try to launch the Artemis I mission from Cape Canaveral on Saturday, September 3, instead of Friday, as planned, with which they will gain a day to have everything ready for the new attempt. The decision to suspend the launch during the first planned attempt, on Monday, August 29, is weighing on NASA. The space agency had planned it as the first of three attempts, to be followed on September 2 and 5, which gave space engineers room for peace of mind.
During a press conference late in the day, mission officials acknowledged that they were not sure why one of the engines did not cool properly during the rocket’s refueling maneuver on the first attempt. They even admitted the possibility that what actually failed was the sensor that transmits the temperature data, which had not been retested since it left the factory.
The launch will be attempted on Saturday from 2:17 p.m. local time in Florida (8:17 p.m. Spanish peninsular time), in a two-hour launch window. NASA specialists consider that the time will not be the most recommended, but they will still try to put the rocket into space that day. The third attempt, in case of failure on Saturday, would be on Monday the 5th at 5:12 p.m. local time. The possibilities for liftoff would end during a short window of opportunity on Tuesday, September 6.
The SLS rocket, the most powerful in history, was scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA), starting at 8:33 a.m. (at 2:33 p.m. Spanish peninsular time), but it did not even arrive with the countdown running at that hour. Throughout the morning there were setbacks, such as bad weather or a crack in the thermal insulation between the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks. But it was an incident in one of the launch vehicle’s four engines, number three, that caused the attempt to be called off. Engine number three was not cooling properly and, unable to find a solution, engineers called off the countdown with 40 minutes to go. First, provisionally; later, definitively.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson downplayed the postponement: “This is how space business works,” he declared, later recalling that he himself took off on the fifth attempt on his journey to space, aboard the space shuttle Columbia, in 1986. It will be fixed and we will fly.”
The failures detected during that first attempt have called into question the general situation of the Artemis program, which aims to return humanity to the Moon. While the rocket remains on the mythical launch pad 39B, released on May 18, 1969 with the Apollo 10 mission, clouds hang over the plan after the first launch attempt failed, without having identified the problem. Even more so after learning that NASA never tested a complete filling of the fuel tanks before August 29.
The plan of the Artemis program is to return humanity to the Moon. This launch is the Artemis I mission, which will take the Orion spacecraft, powered by the SLS rocket and manned by mannequins and dolls, to orbit the Earth satellite and return to Earth after 42 days. The Artemis II mission, scheduled for 2024, would follow the same route, but this time manned by astronauts. And in 2025, if all goes well, a female astronaut and a non-white person will be landed on the Moon, NASA announces.
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