Top U.S. space officials urged patience after NASA’s mega moon mission scrubbed Monday (Aug. 29).
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also chair of the National Space Council, told reporters on site for the Artemis 1 launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida that it took decades of work to get this far. (Harris’ office told Space.com in an exclusive Thursday, Aug. 25 that the Vice President would attend the launch attempt.)
“Today is very much about showing the great work that happened here,” Harris said in brief remarks this morning after meeting with several NASA astronauts outside a KSC building. Minutes before, Artemis 1 was scrubbed due to an engine cooling issue with the Space Launch System megarocket. A new launch date is still being determined; the earliest possible opportunity is Friday (Sept. 2).
While we hoped to see the launch of Artemis I today, the attempt provided valuable data as we test the most powerful rocket in history. Our commitment to the Artemis Program remains firm, and we will return to the moon.August 29, 2022
Harris framed the delay of the moon mission’s first launch attempt as an opportunity to showcase the contribution of the estimated 30,000 workers that contributed to the mission, most especially those at NASA.
The Vice President said the work on Artemis 1 to date was a tribute to “these exceptional public servants, these exceptional skilled professionals who have the ability to see what is possible, and what has never been done before.”
Speaking on NASA TV Monday, agency administrator Bill Nelson referenced his own launch experience to say that delaying liftoff to the moon was a wise decision. Nelson flew aboard a space shuttle mission, STS-61-C, that scrubbed four times before its successful liftoff on Jan. 12, 1986, he said.
“You can’t go; there are certain guidelines,” Nelson added of the Artemis 1 scrub. “I think it’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system. All those things have to work, and you don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go.”
Nelson said that with test flights, halting launches like this is “just part of the space business,” and emphasized Artemis 1 is meant to reduce risk for future human missions that will use the same SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.
“We are stressing and testing this rocket and the spacecraft in a way that you would never do with a human crew on board. That’s the purpose of a test flight,” he said, noting NASA would “work the problem” to get ready for the next launch attempt.
Artemis 1 is tasked with launching an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon for an endurance mission lasting approximately 40 days in space depending on when it launches. NASA’s aim is to test the system beyond what would be expected for a human launch, to make sure the rocket and spacecraft can safely carry humans.
The agency’s Artemis moon program timelines will in part depend on a successful launch, flight and splashdown for Artemis 1. Four astronauts (who have yet to be named) will fly on Artemis 2 around the moon no earlier than 2024. If that goes to plan, NASA hopes to land a crew at the moon’s south pole on Artemis 3 in 2025 or 2026.
Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik contributed reporting to this story from Cape Canaveral, Fla.