NASA’s Artemis I launch Monday was scrubbed. But why is the US trying to go back to the moon?

There is still much to learn from sending people back to the moon.
File – The Artemis 1 rocket stands ready for launch on Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. AP/John Raoux

Story at a glance

  • NASA’s Artemis 1 launch was scrubbed Monday morning due to issues with one of the rocket’s engines. 

  • The next time NASA will be able to relaunch the crewless rocket into lunar orbit will be Friday. 

  • Scientists are interested in going back to the moon to pave the way for longer space travel. 

The launch of NASA’s Artemis I mega rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., was postponed Monday due to an issue with one of the rocket’s four engines.  

 “We don’t launch until it’s right,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during an interview shortly after the launch was scrubbed.  

“They’ve got a problem with the gasses going on the engine bleed on one engine…It’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all those things have to work. You don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go,” Nelson said.   

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The next opportunity for NASA to successfully launch the rocket into space to embark on its journey around the moon is Friday, but further testing on the craft is needed before a relaunch date is decided.   

If team members can fix the rocket’s engine issue within the next two to three days, a Friday launch is possible.   

The last U.S. mission to the moon, Apollo 17, took flight almost 50 years ago. So, why is NASA returning to the moon?  

There’s still a lot to be studied on the Moon   

The Artemis I launch is the first in a series of tests to eventually put humans on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will carry a crewless capsule called Orion on a 42-day trip around the moon. NASA is hoping to eventually land astronauts on the moon in 2025 or 2026.  

But while some might think it’s strange for NASA to go where man has once gone before, NASA officials say the Artemis mission will allow researchers to study previously unexamined parts of the lunar surface. The lunar rocks and dust brought back from the moon by Apollo astronauts have played a major role in scientists’ current understanding of the Earth and moon’s rock and soil history.  A return to the moon could mean that astronauts replenish NASA’s moon rock and soil supply for further research.   

NASA is considering sending astronauts on the crewless Artemis II and Artemis III to the moon’s south pole region where there’s evidence of water ice.   

The mission also includes sending the first person of color and woman to walk on the moon’s surface.  

Make way for Mars 

If all goes well with the first SLS launch, NASA could use what is learned from the new and lengthier moon missions to help astronauts eventually get to Mars. NASA in part is carrying out the Artemis missions to “learn to live, to work, to survive,” on the moon, according to Nelson. 

“How do you keep humans alive in those hostile conditions? And we’re going to learn how to use the resources on the moon in order to be able to build things in the future as we go – not a quarter of a million miles away, not a three-day journey – but millions and millions of miles away on a months and months if not years-long journey,” Nelson added, according to CNN.  

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