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NASA will attempt to launch Artemis 1 mega rocket for third time this week

Chron logo Chron 11/14/2022 Ariana Garcia
© NASA/Joel Kowsky/(NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Following three delayed launches, NASA is set to give its historic Artemis 1 mega Moon rocket launch another try this week. Artemis 1, which will send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a 25-day mission around the Moon and back, is now scheduled to launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center during a two-hour window starting at 12:04 a.m. Wednesday, NASA announced. On Monday, the space agency initiated the countdown for liftoff. 

Following Tropical Storm Nicole making landfall on Florida's East Coast as a hurricane on Thursday, the launch was moved from Monday to Wednesday "pending safe conditions for employees to return to work, as well as inspections after the storm." The rocket, which remained on the launch pad as the storm hit and weathered hurricane-force winds, sustained "no significant impacts," with most repairs involving minor issues like loose caulk or weather coverings, according to NASA officials.

"Designing for this environment is challenging, and our design stood up to the test of the storm," wrote Jim Free, associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, on Twitter. "We are pressing toward launch on Nov. 16."

As of Monday, weather conditions were 90 percent favorable for Wednesday's early morning launch. Previous launch attempts on Aug. 29 and Sept. 27, were initially thwarted by issues with fuel leaks and Hurricane Ian making landfall in Florida, which forced NASA to vacate rocket from the launch pad at the end of September. 

NASA's Artemis program seeks for humans to return to the moon after a half-century hiatus, with the Artemis 1 mission laying the groundwork. It also marks the first integrated flight test of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft. Artemis 1 will eventually be followed by Artemis 2, during which a crewed Orion capsule will attempt the same mission in 2024.

For Artemis 3, which could happen in the following year, NASA will launch a team of astronauts, including the first woman and first person of color to land on the Moon, in the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. However, unlike the Apollo missions, the Artemis program is designed to establish a long-term lunar presence. NASA and its international partners are planning to build a lunar space station, dubbed Gateway, to support activities both on and around the Moon. The missions will also prepare NASA and its partners for another giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars, which they believe could happen in the late 2030s or early 2040s, pending Artemis 1's success.  

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