The space agency NASA had to abort its Artmemis-1 mission to the moon for the second time in a week after discovering a leak of liquid hydrogen while refueling the rocket engine’s fuel tanks.
A similar problem interrupted the planned launch of the mission last Sunday (August 29). At that time, the problem of insufficient cooling of one of the rocket’s four engines was also addressed. During the week, NASA engineers worked on the problems and thought they had solved them. However, the liquid hydrogen leak occurred several times during refueling before Saturday evening’s start, with engineers working around the clock to put out the fire.
After the leak appeared a third time, NASA decided to call off the launch.
“We’ll go when we’re ready. We’re not going until then… This (launch delay) is part of the space business… We have to be prepared for a scrub (launch cancellation),” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in an interview with NASA TV.
NASA was targeting a two-hour launch window starting at 11:47 PM IST. Launch windows are available on Sept. 5 and Sept. 6, but it was unclear whether NASA would make another attempt to send a mission that soon.
Nelson said the mission management team will explore all options, but a launch now appears likely in October.
“If it has to happen in October, although the launch window opens in early October, it would probably happen in mid-October,” he said, referring to the planned departure of the space crew to the International Space Station in early October.
Nelson, a former U.S. senator who himself made a space flight aboard the 24th Space Shuttle Columbia mission in 1986, said the launch delays were not unexpected. He remembered that his own space flight took place on the fifth attempt.
Artemis-1 is intended to be the start of a new generation of interplanetary space missions, the specific purpose of which is to get humans back to the Moon and then much deeper into space, hopefully to other planets. However, Artemis-1 does not carry any astronauts. It is an exploratory mission to lay the groundwork for more ambitious missions in the future that seek to build permanent base stations on the Moon.
Fifty years after the Apollo missions first brought humans to the lunar surface, there is renewed interest in returning to the moon, this time with the intention of staying longer, establishing permanent bases and using the moon as a launch pad for deep space missions.