Artemis 1 hasn’t been able to take off again because of a new set of technical problems. The Artemis 1 rocket looks like it will have to stay on Earth for a while longer; according to the latest reports, it is set to launch in October at the earliest.
Why did 400,000 people turn up to watch a rocket launch scheduled for two months ago?
Due to a number of unforeseen technical difficulties, Saturday’s launch attempt of the Artemis 1 rocket, which had been eagerly anticipated by many, was a failure. The launch failed to live up to the expectations of the hundreds of thousands of people who had gathered to watch it. Previously on Monday the 29th of August, the uncrewed flight was also foiled by technical issues and poor weather conditions.
The first rocket launch was called off because engineers couldn’t get one of the four core stage RS-25 engines to a safe temperature in time. NASA said it had fixed the problem, which it said was caused by a broken temperature sensor that gave a false reading of the engine’s temperature as being much higher and further from being ready for flight than it actually was.
Or, in other words, the rocket was too cold for takeoff.
What happened to prevent lift-off this time?
An alarm sounded when the rocket was being loaded with fuel (liquid hydrogen that had been cooled to a temperature of minus 420 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 250 degrees Celsius)). Engineers located a hole in the seal of one of the rocket’s engines, which allowed fuel to escape and was the source of the problem.
NASA reported that their engineers tried three times but were unable to stop the leak each time.
What did NASA say about the failed launch on Twitter?
“The Artemis 1 mission to the Moon has been postponed,” NASA wrote on Twitter. Teams tried to fix a problem caused by faulty hardware that moved fuel into the rocket, but they were unable to do so.
About the mission
The Orion spacecraft, which has a capacity for six passengers and sits atop the 30-story Space Launch System (SLS), was getting ready to get started on the first of two practice trips when the giant rocket was getting ready to launch. This is preparation for a human moon landing in 2026.
NASA plans to send the Orion on two flybys of the moon, zipping as far out as 40,000 miles (64,373 km) past the moon’s orbit before making its way back to Earth 38 days after launch.
On board, Orion is three mannequins that NASA will use to test the radiation and heat levels during the flight. Also on board and floating around in zero gravity is a Snoopy soft toy.
A wild ride back to Earth on the Orion express
When Orion returns to Earth, it will do so at speed 32 times faster than sound and a temperature higher than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 degrees Celsius). No other spacecraft has ever returned to Earth at such a speed or temperature. After passing this test, the capsule’s ablative heat shield will be put to the test. This shield, along with the craft’s parachute, will use air friction to slow Orion down to just 20 mph (32.2 km/h). After this, it should plop down safely in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California, Mexico, ready for retrieval.
We’re not sure what Orion is planning, but it sounds like it’s going to be one wild ride! Five thousand degrees is hot enough to melt most things, so hopefully, the heat shield can withstand the intense heat and speed. Once Orion finally reaches Earth, it will be moving so fast that the parachute will be key in slowing it down to a safe speed. After all that excitement, it sounds like Orion will take a well-deserved break in the Pacific Ocean.
If all goes to plan
If everything goes according to plan during the test flight of Artemis 1, subsequent flights of Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 are scheduled to take place in 2024 and 2025/2026, respectively.
Artemis 2 will make the same journey as Artemis 1, but with a human crew of four, and Artemis 3 will send the first woman and the first person of color to land on the moon’s south pole. Both of these accomplishments will be accomplished by Artemis 3.
Before the launch, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson gave an interview to BBC Radio 4 in which he expressed his confidence that the technical issues that had been present on Monday had been resolved and that the rocket would be able to take off.
According to Nelson, NASA engineers “have checked it from gizzard to gizzard,” Because they exude such a high level of assurance, Nelson says he does as well.
Despite the substantial financial investment required for the Artemis 1 mission, NASA is confident that it will be a success.
The program began in 2017, and its costs have already surpassed $40 billion. It is projected to cost U.S. taxpayers $93 billion by the end of 2025.
The key takeaways from the mission so far:
- The SLS/Orion system is estimated to cost $4.1 billion per launch.
- NASA needs to find ways to make Artemis-related programs more affordable; otherwise, the expensive single-use, heavy-lift rocket system will inhibit or derail NASA’s long-term goals of human exploration of the moon and Mars
NASA is finally attempting to go to the moon to stay and explore, not just leave after a few hours or days. They want to see if there is water on the moon so that we can use it as a gas station when we go to Mars. And they want to learn how to live in a hostile environment for long periods in preparation for future Mars missions. So, basically, the Artemis mission is the first step in making Mars colonization a reality. And that’s pretty amazing.
An astronaut with the European Space Agency named Luca Parmitano believes that in the grand scheme of things, nobody will remember the delays. If something drastically wrong had happened today, we would have thought about it for a very long time.
Featured image credit: Artemis 1 by NASA