NASA’s return to the moon has been delayed – now for a third time – due to an intensifying nearby tropical storm.
It’s been a big week for NASA, which saw the successful impact of the space agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos on Monday (local time) but it’s been less than successful for the Artemis I program.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis declared a “state of emergency” for nearby Hurricane Ian on Saturday, and now NASA has rolled the Artemis Space Launch System back into the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Centre.
Artemis I’s initial launch window between 29 August and 3 September was stood down firstly due to lightning strikes and then a hydrogen leak.
NASA hoped to relaunch last Friday, however a delay in testing the ship’s liquid hydrogen systems pushed the relaunch window out to September 27.
In a statement, NASA says the decision to roll back the launch “allows time for employees to address the needs of their families, and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system” from the hazardous event.
The earliest possible re-launch Artemis I is with a window from 17 to 31 October.
If unable to launch in this period, the next available opportunity spans from 12-27 November.
These optimum launch windows are determined by the position of the moon relative to the launch site; the sunlight available during the mission to drive the solar-powered Orion Spacecraft; and to have the right splashdown conditions for Orion’s return to Earth.
Artemis is a space program that will eventually send humans back to the moon. Artemis I is an uncrewed space flight to the moon. The second launch will take humans back into orbit around the moon, and the third will see astronauts set foot on the lunar surface.
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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