A technical hiccup prevented NASA’s giant moon rocket, the Space Launch System, from ejecting from the launch pad on Monday. So NASA will try again on Saturday, hoping that its engineers can solve the problem. Here’s what you need to know about the second attempt to start a file Artemis I . mission.
What is the launch date and how can I watch it?
The launch date is set for 2:17 PM ET. In the event of unfavorable weather or technical malfunctions, takeoff can be delayed by up to two hours, until 4:17 pm
NASA TVOnline coverage of the Artemis I launch begins at 5:45 a.m., when a commentator describes the process of filling up the rocket’s giant fuel tanks. Full agency coverage will start at 12:15 PM
Coverage in Spanish It will start at 1 pm
Forecasts show there is a 60 percent chance of favorable weather at the start of the launch window, and odds improve to 80 percent by the end of the two-hour time period.
You can subscribe to The Times’ space and astronomy calendar to get a reminder In your personal calendar about the launch and other events.
If Artemis I descends from Earth, coverage will continue for about two hours after liftoff with what’s known as a lunar injection engine launch to propel the Orion spacecraft out of low Earth orbit on a trajectory toward the moon.
If the launch is delayed again, NASA may also attempt to take off on Monday, September 5 or Tuesday, September 6.
If the rocket hasn’t lifted off from Earth by Tuesday, NASA will need to return it to the Vehicle Assembly Building, which is essentially a massive rocket service garage. A launch attempt could then be later in September or October.
Why didn’t the missile launch on Monday?
The launch was halted on Monday because a sensor reported that one of the rocket’s four core stage engines had not been cooled enough, part of the preparations needed before ignition.
John Honeycutt, the program manager supervising development of the Space Launch System rocket, said temperatures of three of the engines were approaching the target of minus 420 degrees Fahrenheit, while the temperature of the fourth appeared to be about 40 degrees warmer. If the engine is too warm, it may shut down during takeoff.
At a press conference Thursday, mission officials said that analysis of other data had convinced them that the temperature sensor was faulty and that the engine was, in fact, cold enough.
What is Space Launch System and Orion?
For astronauts to get to the moon, they would need a big rocket. The Space Launch System is that rocket — the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V took NASA astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s. The plane, awaiting launch on Monday, is 322 feet tall and will weigh 5.5 million pounds when filled with fuel.
The rocket, known as the SLS, has some visual similarities to the retired space shuttles. That’s by design: To simplify the development of its new lunar rocket, NASA reused much of the space shuttle technology in the 1970s.
Monday’s SLS payload is Orion, a capsule designed for multi-week flights outside low Earth orbit. It will not have a crew on board this flight but can carry up to four astronauts. If this flight is successful, a quartet of astronauts will travel on the next mission, Artemis II.
What happens during the flight?
After takeoff, several events will occur in quick succession.
Just over two minutes after leaving Earth, the two slender side boosters attached to the space launch system’s giant core stage will exhaust their solid rocket fuel and fall away, falling into the Atlantic Ocean.
After eight minutes of flight, the four engines of the primary stage will be shut down. This stage will then fall, and the second stage of the rocket and Orion capsule (which will carry future astronauts) will be alone in space.
About an hour and a half after launch, the second stage will fire again for about 18 minutes, in what’s called a cross-lunar injection. That is, the second phase would push Orion on a path to the Moon. After this engine burns out, Orion will separate from the second stage.
On the sixth day, Orion will begin its orbit around the Moon, moving toward what is known as a distant retrograde orbit.
The exact length of the mission varies by launch date. If Artemis I is launched on Saturday, Orion will leave far retrograde orbit on day 27, and on day 33, it will begin its journey back to Earth. Splashdown will be on October 11, ending a 38-day mission.
Why is NASA returning to the moon?
Why should NASA do what it did half a century ago?
NASA officials argue that Moon missions are central to the human spaceflight programme And not just the Apollo moon landings from 1969 to 1972.
“It’s a future where NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon,” Bill Nelson, Administrator of NASA, said during a press conference this month. “And in these increasingly complex missions, astronauts will live and work in deep space and advance science and technology to send the first humans to Mars.”
NASA also hopes to encourage private companies interested in pursuing an established business of bringing science equipment and other payloads to the Moon, and inspire students to enter the fields of science and engineering.
For scientists, a renewed focus on the Moon promises a wealth of new data in the coming years. There is particular interest in the amount of water ice on the Moon, which could be used to provide future astronauts with water and oxygen and to provide fuel for missions deep in space.
Scientists don’t know how much water there is or how easy it is to extract water from the surrounding rocks and soil. Future missions can help solve this question.
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