By John Mc Fallen- UK based correspondence
…………Back to the Moon, but the real mission is Mars
The Space Launch System has been called the “mega Moon rocket” – for good reason.
Not only is it a colossal 98m high, it’s also the most powerful rocket Nasa’s ever built.
Standing on the launchpad, 90% of its weight is fuel: vast amounts are needed to get this monster off the ground.
So, it uses two enormous rocket boosters, as well four huge engines, to do the heavy lifting.
It needs all this power to escape the gravity of the Earth, and then push a spacecraft – called Orion – towards the Moon.
Orion is located near the top of the rocket, and it’s where the astronauts will eventually sit in future missions.
The spacecraft has an epic journey – it will fly more than a million miles – as it travels around the Moon and then returns to Earth with a splashdown in the Pacific.
We’ve just heard more from Nasa while the countdown clock continues to be held at 40 minutes.
The hold was supposed to last for just 10 minutes, but has now gone on for around half an hour.
“We are standing by,” says Derrol Nail of Nasa Communications on the space agency’s video feed.
Nail says an engine “didn’t get the high-accuracy temperature we were looking for”.
He describes the issue as “particularly tricky”, adding that this was something Nasa crews had unable to test beforehand.
A woman looks up at a Luke Jerram’s art installation representing Mars in Dorchester, UK, in March 2022
Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images
Any future mission to Mars would require significant preparation through further lunar landingsImage caption: Any future mission to Mars would require significant preparation through further lunar landings
“I just have to say pretty bluntly here: we’ve been there before.” That’s what US President Barack Obama said when he cancelled the pre-Artemis project to get back to the Moon.
So why are we going back? Well, it’s unfinished business, scientifically.
The Moon is where you go to find out things about the geological history of Earth. Our planet has erased much of its past, weathering and recycling its rocks.
The Moon preserves the conditions that existed early in the Solar System, billions of years ago. We go to the Moon to learn about us.
But we also go there to learn how to go to Mars.
The Moon is not far away. If you get into trouble, you can come back quickly. Getting to and from Mars is much more difficult, and if you choose to visit the Red Planet, you’d better be prepared.
A Nasa astronaut has been speaking to the BBC, and said the kind of technical issues currently being experienced are “very common”.
“Especially for the first flight of a brand new spacecraft,” Stan Love says, adding this is the first time the rocket’s been brought close to take off.
He says this is a test flight, meaning there are “many opportunities for new things to crop up” but adds “I really hope we’re ready”.
On the planned journey itself, Love says it’ll be a six-week flight where engineers and astronauts’ main aim is to “make sure every part of that spacecraft works [before we] bring it back to Earth”.
Providing everything goes to plan, he says a crew will be named upon Artemis’ return and training will begin soon after – bringing us one step closer to humans reaching the Moon again.