NASA delays Artemis I launch as Tropical Storm Ian intensifies

NASA said Saturday that it was canceling the Tuesday launch attempt of its Artemis I moon mission as Tropical Storm Ian moved through the Caribbean toward the Florida Coast.

In a statement, NASA said that the delay would allow the agency to begin preparing the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion crew capsule sitting on top of it to roll from the launchpad back to its assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center.

The decision to roll back would be made on Sunday, the space agency said. If the storm changes course, NASA could keep the rocket on the pad and possibly try to make another launch attempt in the current available launch period, which runs through Oct. 4.

NASA canceled the first two launch attempts of its Artemis I mission to the moon because of technical issues. It had been hoping to get the rocket off on Tuesday but have been keeping a close eye on the storm, which is expected to become a hurricane currently on track to hit Florida.

After years of setbacks and delays, NASA officials are eager to launch the Space Launch System rocket for the first time, which would mark the first major step in its Artemis I program to return astronauts to the moon. This launch would have no astronauts on board, and is seen as a test of the vehicle before the space agency flies humans.

If all goes well, NASA would send four astronauts in Orion to orbit the moon as soon as 2024, with a landing on the moon’s surface to come a year or two later.

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