An engine problem threatens to postpone the launch of NASA’s Artemis 1 Moon rocket.
About 40 minutes before the rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the space agency said it encountered an “unscheduled shutdown.”
Engineers are working to fix a temperature problem with one of the engines, having dealt with a liquid nitrogen leak earlier during final takeoff preparations.
The space agency said: “The countdown is suspended at T-40 minutes.
“Nasa Space Launch System Rocket Hydrogen Team Discuss Plans with Artemis 1 Launch Director.”
Similar fuel leaks hampered NASA’s countdown tests in April and June.
Officials said they won’t know for sure if the leaks have been fixed until they attempt to load the rocket’s tanks with nearly a million gallons of super cold fuel later Monday, according to the Associated Press.
The uncrewed flight marks the next chapter in humans’ return to the Moon and is the first in NASA’s Artemis program.
There will be astronauts on board for subsequent missions, with the first crewed flight into space scheduled for 2024.
NASA expects the first Artemis astronauts to land on the Moon in 2025.
The Artemis 1 mission will see the first launch of the new 322ft (98m) tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which the agency says is the most powerful rocket in the world to date.
It will take the Orion capsule, powered by the European Service Module (ESM) built by Airbus, into orbit of the Moon.
Airbus engineer Sian Cleaver is an industrial director at ESM and as a child dreamed of flying in human space before earning a master’s degree in physics and astronomy at Durham University.
She told the PA News Agency: “I’m ridiculously excited, and I think everyone on the team is.
“There are years and years of labor of love in this project.
“This is the first time we will see one of our European service modules fly into space and go to the Moon.
“I think a lot of us couldn’t believe it – we now have the green light to launch.
“Now I think it’s really figuring out that this is reality, what’s happening, and it’s really going to start this whole new chapter of space exploration, and going to the moon.
“We’re on the verge of something really exciting now.”
Ms Cleaver said the last time humans went to the Moon around 50 years ago was to prove it could be done, while the new mission is to prove people can go longer and more sustainably.
It will also assess whether certain infrastructure can be built on and around the Moon, allowing humans to survive on another planetary body.
Now in her 30s, Ms Cleaver first visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the launch had a window from 1.33pm (BST) on Monday, when she was just eight years old.
His role in building the ESM was to ensure that all equipment and subsystems were brought together at exactly the right time.
Speaking about attending the launch, she said, “I’m so excited to be here.
“It will be, for me personally, a really special time to be back after so long. And now, to work in the space industry, I still haven’t really understood, that I’ve achieved something that I wanted to do since I was about 15.
She added: “It’s quite amazing that even at this stage of my career – 10 years in Airbus – I’m basically working on my dream mission.”
The duration of the mission is 42 days, 3 hours, 20 minutes, and in total the capsule will travel 1.3 million miles, before crashing on October 10.
The UK is part of the Artemis programme, making contributions to the Lunar Gateway – a space station currently in development with the European Space Agency – working alongside the US, Europe, Canada and Japan.
The Artemis mission will be tracked in the UK from Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall.
Libby Jackson, Head of Exploration Science at the UK Space Agency, said: “The first launch of the Artemis 1 SLS rocket is an important milestone for the global space community as we prepare to bring humans back to Earth. Moon.
“The Artemis program marks the next chapter in human space exploration and we look forward to continued involvement as it comes to life.”