Artemis Moon Rocket – Why NASA Isn't In A Hurry To Launch It
NASA officials called off a test launch of the Artemis Moon rocket that will one day send men to the moon on Saturday for the second time in a week. It was another setback for a major national spaceflight program, but NASA officials were hopeful that it would only be temporary.
But senior NASA officials stood by their decision to cancel Saturday's launch and said they would wait longer, maybe trying again later this month or in October, once the source of a hydrogen leak was found and fixed.
"The cost of two scrubs is a lot less than the cost of failure," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated during a press conference on Saturday afternoon. Despite its 322-foot height, NASA's new rocket is not literally too huge to fail. But it might be if the vehicle is important to the space agency's goals for the moon.
Why Is There So Much Criticism Of The NASA Space Launch System?
NASA has spent more than $40 billion on the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. The initiative is years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget.
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It has also come under fire from proponents of a more commercial approach to spaceflight, who argue that businesses like Elon Musk's SpaceX provide the most cost-effective and efficient means to develop human travel to space.
Because NASA has invested so much in this single rocket, a catastrophic failure would cause the moon mission to be delayed by years and may question the rocket's usefulness.
Even those who oppose the Space Launch System agree that NASA's prudence is reasonable. Lori Garver, a former NASA deputy administrator under the Obama administration who believes the rocket is too costly and favors private spaceflight alternatives, said:
They're not going to launch early; I'm not concerned about it.
NASA's Apollo Program was responsible for the moon landings half a century ago. The next mission to return to the Moon was called Artemis. Artemis was Apollo's twin sister in Greek mythology.
Why Is NASA Behind The Schedule?
Hydrogen, which is the lightest element, is kept as a liquid at a temperature of minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit, where it is easy to get out. Monday's launch attempt was not successful due to a similar issue, but NASA was able to fix the problem ultimately.
However, engineers began loading the hydrogen at 7:15 a.m. on Saturday and halted for the day. They restarted about 9 a.m. but had to halt because of the ongoing leak. Both heating and pressurizing the line with helium failed to resolve the issue.
They had a bigger leak on Monday, an official said. It is now unknown what led one of the hydrogen lines to become accidentally over-compressed. The leak has been discovered, and engineers are debating whether or not they can fix it on the launch pad.
Unless that happens, they'll have to wheel it back to the assembly hall to have it fixed. The rocket's emergency flight termination mechanism, which kills the rocket if it strays dramatically off track during launch, will need to be reset by the engineers regardless of the situation. The assembly hall is the only place where such tasks may be performed.
The space program is used to waiting because delays are common for many reasons. On Saturday, officials reported that 72% of all scheduled space shuttle launches were canceled. Twenty times, the spaceship was brought back where it had originally been built.
The Artemis I Mission
The Artemis I mission is a test run without any people on board to ensure the rocket and spaceship are ready for human passengers. After NASA finishes Artemis I, they want to send four humans on a lunar orbital mission, maybe as early as 2024. In 2025 or 2026, we could see a person set foot on the Moon.
The failure on Saturday, however, demonstrates that NASA still faces several technological obstacles. Regarding the Space Launch System rocket, NASA is taking extra precautions. The Artemis program, which aims to send humans back to the Moon, has been developed at the cost of almost $23 billion.
There are roughly 500 launch conditions that must be followed, Artemis mission manager Sarafin told reporters this week, and any problems might force the space agency to scrub and try another day.
When Artemis I lifts off, it will deploy an uncrewed Orion spacecraft into a lunar orbit. The capsule's purpose is to place itself into a far lunar orbit before returning to Earth and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean after a journey lasting several weeks.
It will be carrying both mannequins and scientific and technological payloads. After two failed launches, most likely not again until later this month or in October. The most recent one was called off because of a huge hydrogen leak.