NASA on Monday for the first time launched its huge rocket to the moon and continued a critical countdown despite a fuel leak.

It was NASA’s fourth crack at an important dress rehearsal, the last important milestone before the rocket’s long-awaited debut in a month.

Previous attempts in April were thwarted by a fuel leak as well as valve jamming and other technical issues.

Another leak – this time on an external fuel line – nearly rolled out a test Monday at the Kennedy Space Center. But NASA managers still decided to conduct a countdown test.

Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said they moved forward to see “how the team worked, how the hardware works, and they both performed very well.”

The engineers wanted to reach a 9-second mark – not counting the engine start – to test all systems and procedures. But he broke off for 29 seconds. NASA spokesman Derol Neil said it was not immediately clear why the countdown had stopped.

Previously, nearly 1 million gallons of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen were loaded into a 322-foot (98-meter) rocket known as the Space Launch System or SLS.

Testing delays have postponed the actual launch – with an empty Orion capsule flying around the moon and back – at least until the end of August. This test flight is crucial before the astronauts board.

Blackwell-Thompson said it was too early to say what NASA’s next move might be.

The second SLS flight, scheduled for 2024, will send a crew around the moon and back. In the third mission – no earlier than 2025 – the astronauts will indeed land on the moon.

The last time astronauts walked on the moon was in 1972 during the NASA Apollo program. The new program is called Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology.

NASA first launched a rocket-moon at a countdown rehearsal

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