NASA Postpones Artemis Moon Mission Launch

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The launch of Artemis I, NASA’s first unmanned test mission of systems it hopes will one day carry humans to Mars, was cancelled this morning, as an engine issue left engineers scrambling unsuccessfully for a solution.

Artemis I was originally slated to take off between 8:33 and 10:33 EDT from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA’s Artemis I Press Kit stated. Engineers were unable to get one of the engines into a suitable temperature range prior to liftoff, and were unable to resolve the issue fast enough that NASA could still hit the two-hour launch window, according to a NASA press release. (RELATED: NASA Releases Perseverance Rover’s First Photos Of Mars)

“The Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft remain in a safe and stable configuration,” the press release stated. NASA had previously designated Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 as potential alternative launch dates in the event the planned launch was scrubbed, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Engineers had encountered a similar problem during a June “wet dress rehearsal,” in which a test fueling was conducted, according to The Washington Post. There were also concerns that one of the engines was cracked, but these concerns turned out to be unfounded, as the crack was in insulating foam, not the joints or other structurally significant component of the rocket, according to The Wall Street Journal.

NASA administrators and officials had attempted to temper expectations prior to the launch, with Administrator Bill Nelson reminding journalists in an interview that the launch was a “stress test” that you couldn’t do with humans on board, according to The Washington Post. Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said the launch “could scrub for any number of reasons,” ranging from technical, to weather or public safety, according to The Washington Post.

“We don’t launch until it’s right,” Nelson said to NASA TV, on a Reuters livestream. “It’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all those things have to work, and you dont wanna light the candle until it’s ready to go.”

NASA intends to follow the Artemis I mission with a duo of manned missions, Artemis II and Artemis III. Artemis II, scheduled for 2023, will take humans further from earth than they have ever been, orbiting the moon as a manned test of Orion’s capability according to NASA. Artemis III, scheduled for 2025, will take humans to the surface of the moon.

NASA stressed through a Twitter and a blog post that teams were gathering data to correct the issue.

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