NASA halts moon rocket launch due to Hurricane Ian

NASA halts space launch due to Hurricane Ian – Pictured: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by: Allard One

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fl. – NASA is delaying next week’s launch attempt of its new moon rocket as Hurricane Ian strengthens to a Category 2.

This is the third delay this past month for the lunar-orbiting flight featuring only mannequins and no actual astronauts, a follow-up to NASA’s Apollo moon-landing program that occurred over half a century ago.

As it made its way through the Caribbean, Hurricane Ian transformed into a Category 2 hurricane on Monday and is expected to slam into Florida’s Gulf coast by Thursday. The entire state of Florida, however, is within the cone showing the probable path of the center of the storm–including NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Given the uncertainty of the storm’s path, NASA decided on Saturday to forgo Tuesday’s planned launch and instead get ready for the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket for a possible return to its hangar. On Sunday, managers will decide whether or not to haul it off the launch pad.

This would be “to allow for additional data gathering and analysis”, NASA said.

If the rocket does remain at the pad, NASA can still try to push for an Oct. 2 launch attempt, the last chance before a two-week blackout period. But a rollback late Sunday or early Monday would most likely mean a lengthy delay for the test flight. This could potentially push it into November.

The Space Launch System rocket is the most potent one that NASA has ever produced. In 2024, astronauts would board the spacecraft for the following voyage, which would culminate in a two-person moon landing if the first test flight is successful.

According to Jim Free, associate administrator for the agency’s exploration systems development directorate, a “step-wise” approach to making the decision to roll back the launch preserved an opportunity if conditions improved.

According to forecasters, the Florida Keys and South Florida could be hit by heavy rain all week.

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