Artemis: What is NASA's mission to the Moon and why it was aborted?

Tuesday, 30 August 2022 (11:21 IST)
NASA called off the launch of a rocket in its Artemis I mission due to a temperature issue with one of its engines.

The launch of the 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System rocket and its Orion capsule was originally scheduled for 8:33 a.m. (1233 GMT). The uncrewed rocket was to blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in the US state of Florida.

What is the Artemis I mission?

The Orion capsule is designed to orbit the moon to see if it is safe for people in the near future. The goal of the mission is to eventually set up an outpost on the moon as a pitstop for future Mars exploration and later colonization.

Cameras will capture every moment of the trip, which will last 42 days. The Orion capsule is to orbit around the moon, coming within 60 miles (100 kilometers) of the celestial body. It will then fire its engines to get to a distance 40,000 miles away from it, which is a record for a spacecraft designed to carry humans.

One of the main objectives of the mission is to test the capsule's heat shield, which is the largest ever built. During the capsule's return to Earth, the shield will have to withstand a temperature of nearly 2,760 degrees Celsius (5,000 degrees Fahrenheit), which is half as hot as the sun.

'First woman and first person of color'

Women now make up 30% of staff in the control room, compared to just one for the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 that took the first humans to the moon.

NASA has said that "we will see the first woman and first person of color walk on the surface of the moon" once the program is able to launch a crewed rocket. The mission is named after the Greek moon goddess Artemis.

"This mission goes with a lot of hopes and dreams of a lot of people. And we now are the Artemis generation," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Saturday.

Repeated delays

The rocket's fuel tanks began to be filled overnight from Sunday to Monday. Early on Monday, a hydrogen fuel leak emerged, forcing launch controllers to halt the tanking operation.

The tanking process was already running an hour late due to stormy weather. Following the initial delay, NASA said there was an 80% chance of acceptable weather for a lift-off on time.

September 2 and 5 have been scheduled as alternative dates for the launch.

The flight is years overdue, and repeated delays have led to billions in budget overruns.

Around 100,000 to 200,000 spectators were expected to attend the launch on Monday.

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