The launch of Artemis 1 has been postponed

The launch of Artemis 1 has been postponed

The Moon must wait: the launch of Artemis 1, the unmanned mission symbol - and inauguration - of the return to our natural satellite, has been postponed.

It should have started today, Monday 29 August, between 14:33 and 16:33, but a leak of hydrogen to engine number 3 of the gigantic Space Launch System first caused the interruption of the countdown, as from protocol blocked to T-40, then forced to postpone, announced by flight director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson. In the next few hours, NASA technicians will work to understand if it is possible to launch the mission on September 2, in the second available window, which will open for two hours from 6:48 pm Italian time.

In the meantime, the gigantic Space Launch System (or SLS), the new heavy launcher of the US space agency, a colossus 98 meters high and with a mass of 2608 tons (at take-off), will remain on ramp 39b of the Kennedy Space Center, for the necessary checks. It will have to be determined whether he can remain there and be prepared for the second launch attempt, or whether it will be necessary to hospitalize him inside the Vertical Assembly Building in Cape Canaveral, for more serious interventions. This eventuality, which is not excluded, could further postpone the departure of Artemis 1, perhaps even beyond the third launch window, on 5 September from 11:12 pm.

Consisting of a central stage with four Rs-25 engines, those of the Space Shuttle, and two solid propellant boosters capable of releasing a thrust of 16 million Newton each, the Space Launch System has the task of launch Orion, the new capsule for human exploration of space, beyond the atmosphere. It should have done so in the early afternoon, Monday 29 August, but by mid-morning the hydrogen and liquid oxygen refueling operations had shown a leak at the base of the first stage, the Core Stage. To be honest, a problem that has already occurred in one of the Wet Dress Rehearsal Tests of the past months, but considered solved or contained within acceptable parameters by Nasa technicians.

At the moment it seems excluded that the problem extends to structural ruptures, but the technical checks will proceed in the next few hours.

The Artemis mission Artemis 1 will inaugurate the program destined to bring us back to selene soil, in one of the 13 candidate sites announced by NASA last Friday. Of course, it will succeed the third mission of the program, Artemis 3, currently scheduled for 2025, when the first woman and the next man will land on our natural satellite. After them, both Americans, several crews are expected to return continuously to the Moon, this time, as long ago proclaimed by NASA, "to stay there", that is, to stay longer than the few days of stay of the Apollo program crews, which since July 1969 to December 1972 led twelve men to walk on extra-terrestrial soil.

Before seeing someone hopping among the craters up there, however, it will be necessary to qualify all the systems involved, from the new heavy launcher of the NASA, renamed Space Launch System (or SLS), to the Orion capsule, designed to accommodate four astronauts, up to the European Service Module, the European contribution to the program, testimony of how, although guided by the United States, the missions are based on a wide international collaboration, in particular of the European (ESA), Japanese (Jaxa) and Canadian (CSA) space agencies.

Artemis 1 will serve precisely this, to qualify each i system. It will release ten small satellites and push towards the lunar orbit, where it will arrive in about a week, then it will make a series of grazing passes, so-called flybys, and will end on October 10 with a dip of the Orion (in jargon, splashdown) in the Ocean. Pacific, off the coast of San Diego.

It will be possible to follow the lift-off and the first minutes of the mission on the official NASA TV channels, with regular updates from 6 am and live link from noon. Through the Facebook page of the Space Explorers group, the launch will be broadcast in live streaming at 8K. Unfortunately not yet available in Italy, visiting Horizon World you can instead watch the take-off in virtual reality wearing a Meta Quest headset.

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