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Although the test launch of NASA’s new moon rocket was postponed Monday morning, Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said it was “still a good day for Canada.”
Champagne, who was in Florida for a two-day trip that included meetings with Canadian astronauts and NASA officials, woke up at 1:30 a.m. to head to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral only to see the mission delayed.
“Obviously we all want to be there to witness history,” he told Canadian reporters on a teleconference from Orlando.
But Canadian representation in the broader mission is more important, Champagne said. “If you look at the big picture, what’s really important for Canadians and of course young Canadians is that this time, we’re not watching it, we’re a part of it.”
It’s been more than half a century since humans last visited the moon, and days or weeks of waiting for this Artemis test launch to continue won’t make a big difference in the long term, he said. As the mission continues, Canada will be “front and center.”
Canada is donating a new robotic arm, Canadarm 3, to the Gateway space station which NASA is finally planning to put in orbit around the moon.
A Canadian astronaut is also expected to be in the crew of the first manned rocket, Artemis 2, which is expected to fly around the moon and return as soon as 2024.
The 98-meter-long rocket’s debut flight was scheduled to take place Monday morning with three test dummies aboard, but a string of last-minute problems culminated in an unexplained engine problem.
As precious minutes passed Monday morning, NASA repeatedly stopped and started refueling its Space Launch System rocket due to a highly explosive hydrogen leak, eventually managing to reduce the seepage to an acceptable level. Leaks occur in the same places as seeps during spring rehearsals.
Refueling was nearly an hour late due to a storm at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
Then, NASA ran into a new problem when it couldn’t properly cool one of the rocket’s four main engines, officials said. Engineers are continuing to work to determine the source of the problem after the launch delay was announced.
“It’s a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all of those things have to work, and you don’t want to light a candle until it’s ready to go,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
Referring to the launch delay, he said: “It’s just part of the space business and it’s part of, in particular, test flights.”
Canadian astronaut David St-Jacques is watching.
“The little boy inside of me was disappointed. I wanted to see the excitement of launching a rocket, this great new rocket, the start of a new era of exploration,” he said. “But the conscious engineer inside of me said, ‘Phew, glad someone found that problem and saved us from a bigger problem.’
St-Jacques said the Artemis program would reintroduce humans to the lunar environment but also ultimately prepare us for missions to Mars. This will create a higher level of confidence for more space exploration. Canada’s involvement “is huge for our nation,” he said.
He noted that past space exploration has resulted in widely used technologies such as GPS, and current Canadian research on space exploration, which focuses on health and food, will have other applications – for example, with remote medicine or in growing food. in a harsh Canadian environment. .
The next launch attempt will not be made until Friday at the earliest and could be delayed to mid-September or later.
Champagne’s office said it was unlikely he would be able to attend for the next launch window.
This Canadian Press report was first published on August 29, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press and files from Pierre Saint-Arnaud.