Due to a tropical storm that is predicted to get stronger as it gets closer to Florida, NASA decided to cancel the historic unmanned mission to the Moon’s scheduled launch on Tuesday.
Under the danger of severe weather, NASA is considering sending the Artemis 1 mission rocket back to its construction site after two previous failed launch attempts.
NASA said on Saturday that it was forgoing a launch opportunity and getting ready to roll back from the launch pad while continuing to monitor the Tropical Storm Ian weather prediction.
The Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the rocket is scheduled to launch, is where Ian will travel toward throughout the weekend, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The storm, which is now south of Jamaica, is predicted to strike Florida’s west coast early next week “at or near major hurricane status,” posing a threat to storm surge, floods, and hurricane-force winds throughout most of the state.
The enormous orange and white Space Launch System (SLS) rocket can endure wind gusts of up to 137 kilometres per hour (85 miles per hour) when it is on the launch pad. However, the present launch window, which lasts through October 4, will be lost if it needs to be shielded.
The Artemis 1 crew is expected to decide on Sunday whether to bring back the rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building “to allow for more data collecting and analysis,” with the operation, if required, commencing late Sunday or Monday morning, NASA said.
A “step-wise approach” to the decision to pull back retains “a launch chance if circumstances improve,” according to Jim Free, associate administrator for the agency’s exploration systems development division, who indicated on Twitter that a launch date before October 5 was still an option.
If not, the following launch window will be from October 17 to October 31, with a potential launch every day (apart from October 24-26 and 28).
In preparation for upcoming lunar missions with humans aboard, the Artemis 1 space mission aims to test the SLS and the unmanned Orion spacecraft.
The first Moon expeditions were given the name Apollo in honor of the Greek god Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis.
The Artemis missions will see the first person of color and the first woman set foot on the lunar surface, in contrast to the Apollo missions, which between 1969 and 1972, exclusively sent white men to the Moon.
After years of setbacks and cost overruns, a successful Artemis 1 mission would be a significant relief for the US space agency.
However, NASA would suffer a setback after two prior launch attempts were aborted due to technical issues with the rocket, including a fuel leak.
A government analysis projects that the Artemis program will cost $93 billion by 2025, with its first four missions at a staggering $4.1 billion apiece.