NASA's Artemis mission to the Moon delayed by hydrogen leak

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A hydrogen leak and a “crack” on Monday forced NASA to postpone the scheduled launch of its next-generation Artemis Moon rocket.

The news came after technicians repeatedly stopped and started fueling the agency's most powerful rocket ever, known as the Space Launch System (SLS), with nearly 1 million gallons of super-cold hydrogen and oxygen.

Thunderstorms off Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre had already delayed fueling by an hour before two leaks were discovered.

The first reportedly appeared in the same place that saw seepage during a dress rehearsal back in the spring, with a second leak then appearing in a valve.

New launch window

Launch of the unmanned capsule Orion, which is to swing round the Moon and back as part of a six-week mission, will now take place on Friday at the earliest.

NASA engineers were still analysing modelling data before making a final decision.

The Artemis project aims to put a crew capsule into orbit around the Moon – a major milestone in NASA’s quest to put astronauts back on Earth’s satellite for the first time since the Apollo program ended 50 years ago.

Named for the goddess who was Apollo's twin sister in ancient Greek mythology, the programme hopes to return astronauts to the Moon by 2025 after a five-decade hiatus.

It also seeks to establish a long-term lunar colony as a stepping stone to even more ambitious future voyages sending humans to Mars.

(with wires)