NASA Scrubs its First Three Artemis Ⅰ Launches: What Went Wrong?

NASA Scrubs its First Three Artemis Ⅰ Launches: What Went Wrong?

Mia Bartl, Reporter

For the first time since 1968, Americans are going back to the moon. NASA recently announced the Artemis program, and its projected five missions, with the goal of establishing semi-permanent settlements on the moon. The first rocket from this program, ArtemisⅠ, was originally set to launch on August 29, 2022. However, following problems with the rocket’s engine, the launch has been delayed to late September at the earliest. 

The August 29th launch was called off due to an issue cooling one of the rocket’s engines as well as weather problems. NASA announced the launch would take place a short four days later, on September 2nd, but that launch was also scrubbed. NASA insisted the launch would happen the day after, September 3rd, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, ArtemisⅠremained grounded for all of labor day weekend. The reason behind these failures, a hydrogen leak.

Liquid hydrogen has been used as rocket fuel since the Apollo Mission back in the 60s, and works extremely well as the rocket’s power source. However, when fueling the rocket on Friday and Saturday, NASA noticed significant leakage coming from the fuel tank. Despite their best efforts, NASA engineers could not repair the leak. Had the launch taken place, with a leak this size, it would have posed a huge fire hazard. 

To allow adequate time to fix the leak, the Artemis Ⅰ launch has been pushed back to late September or early October. More specifically, NASA released September 16th to October 4th as one of two possible time ranges for the launch to take place, the other being October 17th-31st.

The purpose of the Artemis program is to eventually establish semi-permanent human settlements on the moon, as well as collect geologic information and samples. With technological advancements in rockets, scientists and engineers are now able to land a rocket at the moon’s poles. Apollo 11 landed on the moon’s equator, not according the NASA’s preference but because it was the easiest location to land the rocket. With the Artemis program, NASA hopes to explore and collect samples from areas on the moon no human has ever been. As of now, Artemis Ⅲ is intended to be the first of the Artemis program to actually land on the moon, and is set to land on its South Pole in late 2025.  As for the first two rockets, their mission is simply to orbit the moon. In total, the first five flights of the program have been planned, with flights six through ten soon to follow. 

Besides the exploration of new territory, putting Americans back on the moon will allow for new data to be collected regarding the geologic makeup of the moon. Again, technological advancements will allow astronauts to take clearer pictures of the landscape and be able to take a larger amount of samples back to Earth. More than that, with the newfound ability to land on the moon’s poles rather than equator, astronauts will be able to take samples of lunar ice back to Earth for testing. 

Additionally, what data we collect from the moon will be pivotal in discovering the origins of the universe. The moon never had an atmosphere or running water and, therefore, no erosion. It is no different geologically now than it was right after the Big Bang. Being able to study the composition of the lunar rocks and ice will reveal invaluable information about the origins of the universe. 

Finally, the Artemis program has one last overarching goal: to prepare us for Mars. Former president Barack Obama promised America that it would put humans on Mars by 2033, and NASA intended to make good on his promise. Mars is 200 times further from Earth than the moon, so extensive additional research will need to be done before NASA can safely send astronauts to Mars. Regardless, the moon offers a perfect training ground for astronauts to adapt to living in space. Furthermore, The Artemis program will allow NASA to evaluate the extent of its current technology’s ability in order to make the proper adjustments for a longer voyage.

Though the first three launches for ArtemisⅠhave been scrubbed, the Artemis program still shows great promise. If successful, the Artemis program will revolutionize space exploration as we know it and pave the way for humans on Mars.