Artemis I: What Went Wrong Before it Went Right?
In late 2022, the Artemis I mission launched its 25-day mission to orbit the Moon. Though it didn’t carry a human crew, it was a crucial first step toward returning humans to the Moon. However, success didn’t come on the first or even the second try. Engineers and scientists faced hundreds or even thousands of failures before the one shining success of Artemis I. Such huge and complex problems involve years of design, testing, and refinement. Big and small failures are part of the process, providing valuable data to improve designs and procedures. This improvement process is called “iteration” and is essential in engineering.
The Artemis team encountered several public problems with the SLS rocket system, leading to multiple launch delays. From November 2020 to November 2022, they faced issues like malfunctioning valves, leaks, and computer failures. Some problems occurred during testing and rehearsal, but the first real “failure to launch” happened on August 29, 2022, when one of the four rocket engines overheated and other issues led to a launch cancellation. NASA attempted again in early September 2022, but a fuel leak in a supply hose caused another scrub. The next launch was scheduled for later that month but had to be canceled due to poor weather conditions caused by Hurricane Nicole. However, the SLS remained undamaged.
Finally, the Artemis I mission was ready for another launch attempt. This time, everything was set, and the SLS rocket successfully launched on November 16, 2022. Can you imagine how frustrating it must have been for the Artemis team to face all these challenges and delays, especially after working on the project for years or even decades?