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  24 Sep 2022, 23:19

NASA scraps Tuesday Moon launch due to storm

WASHINGTON, Sept 24, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - NASA has called off the scheduled
Tuesday launch of its historic uncrewed mission to the Moon due to a tropical
storm that is forecast to strengthen as it approaches Florida.

After two previously canceled launch attempts, NASA is weighing returning
the Artemis 1 mission rocket to its assembly site under the threat of extreme
weather.

"NASA is forgoing a launch opportunity... and preparing for rollback (from
the launchpad), while continuing to watch the weather forecast associated with
Tropical Storm Ian," it said on Saturday.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Ian is due to "rapidly
intensify" over the weekend as it moves toward Florida, home to the Kennedy
Space Center, from which the rocket is set to launch.

Currently south of Jamaica, the storm is expected to approach Florida's
west coast "at or near major hurricane strength" early next week, threatening
storm surge, flooding and hurricane-force winds across much of the state, the
NHC said.

On the launchpad, the giant orange and white Space Launch System (SLS)
rocket can withstand wind gusts of up to 137 kilometers (85 miles) per hour.
But if it has to be sheltered, the current launch window, which runs until
October 4, will be missed.

A decision on whether to roll back the rocket to the Vehicle Assembly
Building is due to be taken by the Artemis 1 team on Sunday, "to allow for
additional data gathering and analysis," with the operation, if necessary,
starting late Sunday or Monday morning, NASA said.

Jim Free, associate administrator for the agency's exploration systems
development directorate, said on Twitter that a "step-wise approach" to the
decision to roll back preserves "a launch opportunity if conditions improve,"
indicating a launch date before October 5 was still on the table.

If not, the next launch window will run from October 17 to 31, with one
possibility of take-off per day, except from October 24-26 and 28.

The Artemis 1 space mission hopes to test the SLS as well as the unmanned
Orion capsule that sits atop it, in preparation for future Moon-bound journeys
with humans aboard.

Artemis is named after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, after whom
the first Moon missions were named.

Unlike the Apollo missions, which sent only white men to the Moon between
1969 and 1972, Artemis missions will see the first person of color and the
first woman step foot on the lunar surface.

A successful Artemis 1 mission would come as a huge relief to the US space
agency, after years of delays and cost overruns.

But another setback would be a blow to NASA, after two previous launch
attempts were scrapped when the rocket experienced technical glitches including
a fuel leak.

The cost of the Artemis program is estimated to reach $93 billion by 2025,
with its first four missions clocking in at a whopping $4.1 billion each,
according to a government audit.

 

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