NASA’s uncrewed mission to the Moon is having problems.
A fresh launch attempt for the Artemis 1 mission, slated for Tuesday, is now in jeopardy due to a storm forming in the Caribbean after two previous attempts were delayed by technical issues some weeks ago.
The storm is now south of the Dominican Republic and has not yet been named.
However, it is anticipated to intensify into a hurricane over the next several days and proceed northward into Florida, where the Kennedy Space Center is located and from where the rocket is scheduled to launch.
According to NASA’s exploration ground systems manager Mike Bolger, “our plan A is to remain on track and launch on September 27.”
“However, we recognized that we also need to be particularly attentive and considering a plan B.”
The massive Space Launch System rocket must be wheeled back to the VAB or Vehicle Assembly Building.
Bolger said that a decision should be reached by early afternoon on Saturday. “If we were to move down to Plan B, we need a few days to pivot from our present tanking test or launch configuration to execute rollback and go back into the protection of the VAB,” he added.
The orange and white SLS rocket can endure wind gusts up to 137 kilometers per hour on the launch pad.
However, the present launch window, which lasts through October 4, will be lost if it has to be shielded.
From October 17 through October 31, there will be one possible launch every day, except October 24-26 and 28.
After years of setbacks and cost overruns, the US space agency will feel great relief if the Artemis 1 mission is a success.
However, NASA would suffer a setback after two prior launch attempts were aborted due to technical issues with the rocket, including a fuel leak.
The dates of the launches are contingent upon NASA gaining a special dispensation to avoid having to retest batteries on an emergency flight system that is meant to destroy the rocket if it veers beyond its intended range and into a populated region.
The launch window will begin on Tuesday at 11:37 local time and remain for 70 minutes.
The mission will last 39 days if the rocket launches that day, ending on November 5 with a landing in the Pacific Ocean.
To test the SLS and the uncrewed Orion capsule that rides atop, the Artemis 1 space mission seeks to pave the way for future lunar missions with people on board.
In place of the astronauts on the flight, mannequins with sensors will measure radiation, vibration, and acceleration.
In the next Artemis 2 mission, humans circle the Moon rather than touch down there.
The earliest the Artemis 3 crew will set foot on the Moon is 2025.