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Artemis I launch scrubbed due to engine problem

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NASA’s mega-rocket is halting a planned test flight to the moon, agency officials announced Monday.

NASA’s unmanned Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule were scheduled to launch on a test flight to the moon, but engine problems prevented the much-anticipated launch.

Engineers discovered a problem with one of the fuel lines while the rocket was being charged with propellant. A liquid hydrogen line used to cool the rocket’s core stage engines malfunctioned halfway through the launch countdown, and the test flight was eventually called off after troubleshooting efforts failed.

A new launch date has not yet been announced. NASA has backup launch capabilities on September 2 and 5, but it’s unclear if engineers can locate the problem and fix it in time to meet those dates.

“We won’t launch until it’s right,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson told NASA TV after the flight was halted.

The agency said the rocket and spacecraft are currently “in a stable, safe condition,” adding that engineers are collecting data from the vehicle on the launch pad.

Monday’s event would be the first launch of the 322-foot-tall Space Launch System, a next-generation booster that NASA says is the “world’s most powerful rocket.” The test flight, known as Artemis I, is designed to test both the massive SLS rocket and the Orion capsule before the agency sends astronauts back to the lunar surface.

The Artemis I delay comes after more than a decade of NASA’s work to develop a new mega-rocket that exceeds the capabilities and dimensions of the iconic Saturn V rockets used during the agency’s Apollo lunar program, which ended in the seventies. The initiative has been criticized over the years for being years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

At a House Science Committee hearing earlier this year, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin said the agency will likely spend $93 billion on the Artemis program between 2012 and 2025.

NASA’s return to the moon program is called Artemis, named after the goddess of Greek mythology who was the twin sister of Apollo. As part of the Artemis program, NASA foresees regular missions to the moon to establish a base camp on the lunar surface, before finally venturing to Mars.

NASA officials have said astronauts could return to the moon’s surface as early as 2025.

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