Long faces and few explanations: After another failed launch of the unmanned moon mission "Artemis 1", the US space agency Nasa is feverishly looking for the reasons. At a press conference late Saturday evening German time, Nasa boss Bill Nelson tried to be optimistic with Mission Manager Mike Sarafin and Nasa Manager Jim Free. However, they were all only able to confirm a few secure details and plans. What is certain, however, is that there will be no new launch attempt in the coming week.
The team is currently investigating why exactly the problems occurred and what repairs are necessary, explained Free. It is not yet possible to say whether a new attempt to start will take place in the next (September 19th to October 4th) or in the next but one possible planning time window (October 17th to October 31st). In addition, according to the current status, it looks as if the rocket with the "Orion" capsule at the top would have to go back to the hangar - a release to stay at the launchpad has not yet been given, said Free. On Monday and Tuesday, the team wants to discuss further and then publish updated details and plans.
Second failed attempt within a week
The start on Saturday was canceled due to a leaking tank hose. Several attempts to solve this problem during fueling with liquid hydrogen had failed. Around three hours before the start of a possible time window for the start, this was then canceled. At this point, the hydrogen tanks were eleven percent full, it said.
Sarafin and Free could not yet foresee whether further extensive dress rehearsals of the entire starting process might be necessary after the repairs that were to follow.
"We didn't have the launch we wanted today, but I can tell you these teams know exactly what they're doing and I'm very proud of them," said Nasa boss Nelson at the press conference. His own space shuttle mission had been postponed four times, he recalled shortly after the launch failure on NASA's web television. "The fifth attempt was a nearly flawless six-day mission."
Manned "Artemis" mission at the earliest in 2025
Problems had also arisen during earlier "Artemis" tests, which finally resulted in a first significant shift: With the program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, US astronauts were supposed to land on the moon again by 2024, for the first time woman and a non-white person. Because of the many technical problems, such a manned "Artemis" mission is now planned for 2025 at the earliest. They are sticking to this schedule, Nelson confirmed on Saturday. NASA's long-term goal is for "Artemis" to even create important foundations for the first Mars missions.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst wrote on Twitter on Saturday that problems with test starts of complex systems were not surprising. "After the launch attempt is before the launch attempt," he added. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano agreed similarly: Eleven space shuttles should have been rolled back to the workshops for repairs after canceled starts, he wrote. "When Artemis 1 takes off, no one will remember the delays - but if something had gone wrong today, we would have remembered it for a long time."