NASA Scrubs Monday Artemis Launch, But It Could Still Happen This Week

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NASA Scrubs Monday Artemis Launch, But It Could Still Happen This Week
The 322-foot Space Launch System rocket was set to lift off Monday morning with three test dummies aboard on its first flight.

The maiden flight of the most powerful rocket ship ever built is on hold.

Launch director Charlie Blackwell Thompson called a scrub of the Artemis I launch attempt and the Space Launch System with the Orion spacecraft. 

The SLS rocket and the Orion capsule are part of NASA's Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon and maybe Mars one day. But on Monday, Artemis couldn't overcome problems on Earth. Lightning storms, leaking rocket fuel and trouble cooling one of the four main engines turned Monday's launch into a bust.

"There are millions of components of this rocket and its systems, and needless to say the complexity is daunting when you bring it all into the focus of a countdown," said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.

The SLS program was once canceled by President Barack Obama for being over budget and behind schedule, but Congress, including then-Sen. Nelson, brought it back to life. It reuses engines from the old space shuttle program and has never flown.

At the same time, private companies like Space X are going to the stars faster and much cheaper.

"Right now we're seeing the last gasp as sort of the Apollo approach to building giant rockets, and meanwhile 1,000 miles to the West, Elon Musk can build his starship so cheaply that he blows them up, and he puts a blooper reel out," said Keith Cowing with NASAwatch.com.

NASA says it is now going to figure out what went wrong.

"We're gonna launch when we're ready, and that's our approach," said Jim Free, NASA associate administrator. "There's nobody that came wanting a launch more than our team that has worked on this. Everybody wants it to be successful."

NASA says if the problems can be fixed, there is a chance Artemis 1 might still launch on Friday afternoon.

"We're gonna play all nine innings," said Mike Serafin, Artemis mission manager at NASA headquarters. "We're not ready to give up yet."

Even though NASA says Friday is still very much in play for a launch, as one NASA official put it, delays are par for the course.