The launch of the world’s most powerful rocket on its test flight to the moon’s orbit has been postponed, after scientists discovered a hydrogen leak on board. The Artemis 1 could now lift off from Cape Canaveral on a later date.


What has happened?

The launch had been delayed by organisers during the fuelling process, just 40 minutes before the scheduled take-off, after a liquid hydrogen leak was discovered.


About the Artemis-1 Mission

  • Formerly known as Exploration Mission-1, Artemis 1 (Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of Moon’s Interaction with the Sun) is the first planned uncrewed test flight in NASA’s Artemis program which is designed to eventually land humans on the Moon again.
      • The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was NASA’s third human spaceflight program (after Project Mercury and Project Gemini), which succeeded in preparing and landing the first humans on the Moon from 1968 to 1972.
  • It is also the first flight of the agency’s —
      • Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will be the most powerful rocket engine ever flown to space, even more powerful than Apollo’s Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s.
      • The complete Orion spacecraft – a partially reusable crewed spacecraft designed by Lockheed Martin and the European Service Module and manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space.
  • Artemis-1, which will also deploy 10 CubeSat satellites, will test how well SLS and Orion can complete a mission to the Moon and back.


Why is NASA going back to the Moon?

  • There is much science/research to be performed on the moon —
      • The rock samples collected by Apollo astronauts decades ago taught scientists a lot about Earth’s and the moon’s geologic history.
      • What today’s astronauts can acquire could reveal considerably more.
      • NASA has announced 13 potential landing locations (for Artemis), all in the south pole region, where water ice has been proven deep inside craters that never see sunlight.
      • The sites are among the best in the world for studying lunar geology and understanding and sampling lunar ice.
  • A stepping stone to Mars —
      • Mars is at least 200 times farther away from Earth than the moon, creating a huge problem in keeping astronauts safe from things like radiation exposure.
      • On these increasingly difficult missions like Artemis, astronauts will live and work in deep space, developing the science and technology needed to transport humans to Mars.
  • To mark permanent human presence —
      • The main goal of Apollo was to beat the Soviet Union to the moon. It was successful, but there was no long-term plan to establish a permanent human presence there.
      • Artemis may witness a slow transition into a permanent human presence on the moon.
  • It has the potential to stimulate the development of new technologies —
      • According to NASA, commercial items derived from the space agency’s research contribute between $100 million and $1 billion to the US economy each year.
      • Artemis has the potential to stimulate similar breakthroughs (like a reusable spacecraft) and boost the economy.
  • It has the ability to inspire future engineers and scientists —
      • The Apollo lunar mission is reported to have inspired thousands of new engineers and scientists.
      • NASA will receive virtually real-time video from the moon’s surface via Artemis, which may excite those who are not considering careers in space exploration or engineering.