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NASA Artemis Moon rocket launch delayed again, this time by storm

NASA rescheduled its long-delayed unmanned mission to the moon on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Nicole swept toward Florida’s east coast, officials said.

NASA rescheduled its long-delayed unmanned mission to the moon on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Nicole swept toward Florida’s east coast, officials said.

A launch attempt, scheduled for Nov. 14, will now take place on Nov. 16, Jim Free, a senior US space agency official, said on Twitter.

It is the third delay from the highly anticipated launch in as many months.

“Our people are the most important aspect of our mission,” wrote Free, who is NASA’s Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development. “Adjusting our target launch date for #Artemis I prioritizes worker safety and empowers our team to care for the needs of their families and homes.”

The storm in the Atlantic was expected to grow into a hurricane in the Bahamas on Wednesday before making landfall in Florida later in the evening or early Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.

A hurricane warning has been issued near the Kennedy Space Center, where the rocket — NASA’s most powerful ever — will fire.

With Nicole gaining momentum, “NASA … has decided to re-focus on a launch for the Artemis I mission for Wednesday, Nov. 16, pending safe conditions for workers to return to work, as well as inspections after the storm is over,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday evening.

NASA added that a launch during a two-hour window opening at 1:04 a.m. EST (0604 GMT) on Nov. 16 would result in a landing on Friday, Dec. 11.

A backup launch date has been set for November 19.

NASA said it would leave the giant SLS rocket on the launch pad, where it had been placed several days earlier.

After two launch attempts were canceled this summer due to technical problems, the rocket had to be returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building to protect it from Hurricane Ian.

Last week, the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket was rolled back onto a giant platform known as the crawler transporter, designed to minimize vibration.

Earlier Tuesday, Nicole picked up sustained winds near 65 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour) with higher gusts and was expected to increase even further, according to the NHC.

Some experts have expressed concern that the missile, estimated to cost several billion dollars, could be damaged by hurricane debris if left exposed.

“As far as staying on the trail, we want to see peak winds below 74.1 knots, and that’s kind of the main requirement we’re tracking,” said lead rocket engineer John Blevins.

The SLS rocket is designed to withstand winds of 85 miles per hour (74.4 knots) at 60 feet with structural margin, according to NASA. It is designed to withstand heavy rain on the launch pad as well, and the spacecraft’s hatches are secured to prevent water ingress.

The unmanned mission, dubbed Artemis 1, will bring the United States one step closer to astronauts returning to the moon, five decades after humans last walked on the lunar surface.

The purpose of Artemis 1, named after Apollo’s twin sister, is to test the SLS rocket and the Orion crew pod that sits atop.

Mannequins will replace astronauts on the mission and will record acceleration, vibration and radiation levels.

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