By Lillian Hauser-Howells | September 19, 2022
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingall
NASA is on a mission to bring astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972. Recently, there have been two delays of NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS), a part of the Artemis missions. The first goal of the Artemis mission is to put the first woman and first person of color on the moon. Eventually, NASA hopes these smaller missions will lead to sending astronauts to Mars.
The Artemis mission has been delayed twice so far due to failures in the engine systems. Both of these failures occurred in one week. According to NASA’s website, Artemis 1 is the first step of the Artemis mission aiming to put humans on the moon again in 2025. It’s serving as a test for the Orion Spacecraft, part of the SLS, NASA’s most powerful rocket ever.
In a press release from Space.com, it is explained that the first attempt to launch the SLS was "scrubbed,” or canceled, likely due to a faulty temperature sensor and cracks in insulation form. The second attempt on the crewless mission was scrubbed after three failed attempts to repair a leak in the rocket's fuel: supercooled hydrogen propellant.
During the launch, a press release from the Orlando Sentinel states that teams on the Artemis mission desperately tried to save the launch. First, they tried to warm the tank connector. Then, they wanted to cool it with chilled fuel in order to reset the hydrogen quick disconnect connector. These devices are essential to provide fast and easy connections to fuel lines. Lastly, the team tried to repressurize it with helium. All of these strategies failed.
Despite concerns raised by the launch delays, mechanical issues are more than typical in space travel. Failures and scrubs are expected. In fact, economically, the cost of scrubbing the mission will be much less than a complete failure. Additionally, allowing a mission to fail its aim to bring humans to the moon in a lethal rocket would be a horrific and memorable tragedy.
Attempts to repair the rocket in the Kennedy Space Center repair bay are also taking place because of the aforementioned failures on the launch pad. On Sept. 10 and 11, Artemis 1 teams completed repair work on a hydrogen leak. During the week of Sept. 12, the teams conducted tests in ambient conditions to ensure a tight bond between the plates was repaired. On top of repairing leaks, both the 8 inches and 4-inch fuel and bleed lines, respectively, were removed and replaced.
In a press release from NASA’s blog, officials state that it is likely the next launch window will not be taken advantage of until 12:45 p.m. on Oct. 3, according to NASA's blog on the mission. NASA administrators, such as Jim Free, are also prepared to launch during a later Dec. 9 to 23 window. These launch windows depend on positioning between the Earth and the moon. NASA is willing to wait this long because, in NASA administrator Bill Nelson's words, "Let's remember we're not going to launch until it's right."
During this time, NASA does have other missions planned for us to look forward to. In early October, NASA plans to send four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission is part of the SpaceX Crew-5 Dragon Mission.