Early on Monday morning, the countdown to the launch of NASA’s new moon rocket was halted by a hydrogen fuel leak, significantly delaying the operation, which was already behind schedule due to an offshore rainstorm.
The leak was reported earlier also, and after many trials, it reappeared at the same place again during the countdown.
The countdown was likely to stop if the leak became worse, so launch controllers gradually started their work. Then, alarms caused another halt.
The 98-meter rocket, which outperforms even the Saturn V that sent people to the moon 50 years ago, is the most potent NASA has ever created.
If this test flight is successful, it would be the first crewed spacecraft to orbit the moon in fifty years.
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, there were no humans in the Orion capsule mounted atop the rocket. Instead, three test subject dummies were secured for the six-week journey to circle the moon.
Thousands of spectators crowded the shore to see the Space Launch System or SLS rocket take off even though it was empty. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband arrived in Orlando via airplane, but she had not yet made the hour-long drive to Cape Canaveral in time for the scheduled takeoff.
The earliest next possible launch attempt wouldn’t occur until Friday.
NASA’s April countdown test was plagued by hydrogen fuel leaks, which required several repairs. The demo was repeated in June with improved results, although there were still some leaks.
Managers had warned that they would not know for sure whether the tweaks were effective until they tried to load the rocket’s tanks with over 1 million gallons of extremely cold fuel on Monday.
There was some communication issue involving the Orion capsule between the Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson and her team.
It has been years since NASA’s 21st-century moon exploration program, Artemis—named for Apollo’s legendary twin sister—took her inaugural mission. Budget overruns of billions have been caused by several delays; this demo alone will cost US$4.1 billion.
Astronauts would climb on the second voyage and fly around the moon and return as early as 2024, assuming the test goes well.
There is a lot of hope for this mission, it will be a breakthrough, and maybe two people landing on the moon might take place in 2025.
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