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29 Aug, 2022 12:51

NASA cancels launch of giant Moon rocket

The US space agency has cited a critical engine bleed issue as the reason
NASA cancels launch of giant Moon rocket

NASA canceled its Artemis I mission to the Moon on Monday after engineers discovered an engine malfunction at the last moment, the US space agency said in a statement.

One of the core stage engines failed to be properly conditioned as the giant spacecraft was preparing to blast off to space, the statement said. Conditioning is needed to bring the engines to the “proper temperature” to eventually start them, it added.

According to NASA, the issue could not have been rectified on the spot. Engineers are now “looking at options to gather as much data as possible” to get to the bottom of the issue, the agency added. Additionally, a “crack in the thermal protection system material” of the spacecraft’s core stage was discovered.

The 100-meter-tall rocket – the biggest ever developed by NASA – is in “a stable, safe condition,” the space agency said. The next available opportunity to launch could be on September 2, if the engine bleed issue is fixed, Derrol Nail, a NASA launch commentator and producer, told journalists.

Monday's launch would have been the first mission of the Artemis program, an ambitious project by the American space agency focused on lunar exploration and bringing humans back to the Moon's surface. The Artemis I mission would have been an uncrewed test and demonstration flight around and beyond the Moon. If successful, it would be followed by a similar crewed mission dubbed Artemis II.

Earlier in August, NASA reported identifying as many as 13 potential landing spots on the Moon for its Artemis program. However, US astronauts are expected to step foot there no sooner than in 2025.