NASA on Saturday scrapped a second attempt to get its new 30-story rocket off the ground and send its uncrewed test capsule toward the Moon after engineers detected a fuel leak.
With millions around the globe and hundreds of thousands on nearby beaches waiting for the historic launch of the massive Space Launch System (SLS), a leak near the base of the rocket was found as ultra-cold liquid hydrogen was being pumped in.
Though the area around the launch site was closed to the public, an estimated 400,000 people had gathered nearby to see — and hear — the most powerful vehicle that NASA has ever launched climb into space.
Early Saturday, launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson had given the go-ahead to start filling the rocket’s tanks with cryogenic fuel.
No new date for another try was immediately announced.
The purpose of the Artemis 1 mission is to verify that the Orion capsule, which sits atop the SLS rocket, is safe to carry astronauts in the future.
– Apollo’s twin sister –
The trip is expected to last around six weeks and one of its main objectives is to test the capsule’s heat shield, which at 16 feet in diameter is the largest ever built.
Artemis is named after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, after whom the first Moon missions were named.
A government audit estimates the Artemis program’s cost will grow to $93 billion by 2025, with each of its first four missions clocking in at a whopping $4.1 billion per launch.
The crew of Artemis 3 is to land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest, with later missions envisaging a lunar space station and a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.