Monday morning, a problem with the engine cooling system made it impossible to launch the first US rocket in 50 years that could have sent people to the moon.
The 322-foot-tall Space Launch System rocket was set to take off from launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is where Apollo 17, the last US trip to the moon, was launched.
After NASA looked into a few last-minute problems, including one with one of the “bleed” lines that let hydrogen out of the engines to cool them down before they start, the launch, which was supposed to happen at 8.33am local time, was first pushed back and then cancelled. There are backup launch windows open on Friday for a second try and on Monday for a third try.
After 12 years of development and big cost increases, the first launch of the moon mission will be a big test for Boeing, which is the main company that built the rocket. NASA tried to make the delay seem like a normal part of a new rocket’s development.
Bill Nelson, who runs NASA, said, “It’s just part of doing business in space, and especially part of a test trip. Before you light the candle, you wait until it is ready.
Nasa said in a statement that the launch was put off because the crew “ran out of time in the two-hour launch window” as engineers rushed to figure out what was wrong with the engine cooling system before the planned launch.
Nasa says, “Launch controllers were still trying to figure out why a test to get the temperature of the RS-25 engines at the bottom of the core stage to the right range for liftoff failed.” NASA wasn’t able to figure out what went wrong before the launch was set to happen.
As the US and China compete to send people back to the moon’s surface, the first launch of the rocket is expected to start a new era of human space exploration. Monday’s mission was supposed to send an unmanned Orion capsule on a six-week test trip around the moon. This was to prepare for the first trip with people in 2024 and a moon landing in 2025.
The moon missions are the first part of NASA’s Artemis programme, whose ultimate goal is to send people to Mars and other places. After giving up on exploring deep space for a long time, the US had to rent space on Russian rockets to send people into orbit.
Mike Gold, a former NASA officer in charge of policy and partnerships, says that before the Artemis mission, “many countries looked to China” for leadership in space.
The day before the launch, Gold told a group of people that the US had “failed again and again to sustain a programme” in space beyond low-Earth orbit. This gave China a chance to take the lead and forced the US to take action in response.
China, which has successfully put three robots on the moon, wants to build a facility there with Russia and has invited other countries to join.