FLORIDA: After technical issues halted its first launch attempt, NASA will try again on Saturday to get its new 30-story rocket off the ground and send its unmanned test capsule towards the Moon.
If the massive Space Launch System (SLS) lifts off successfully, it will not only be awe-inspiring but also historic for NASA, marking the first of its Artemis program plotting a return to the Moon, fifty years after the final Apollo mission.
The launch is scheduled for 2:17 pm local time (1817 GMT) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with a possible two-hour delay if necessary.
“Our team is ready,” said Jeremy Parsons, deputy manager of exploration ground systems at Kennedy Space Center, on Friday.
“They are getting better with every attempt and actually performed superbly during launch countdown number one… I think if the conditions with weather and the hardware align, we’ll absolutely go.”
Though the area around the launch site will be closed to the public, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather on beaches nearby to see — and hear — the most powerful vehicle that NASA has ever launched climb into space.
NASA’s initial launch attempt on Monday was halted after engineers detected a fuel leak and a sensor showed that one of the rocket’s four main engines was too hot.
Both issues have since been resolved, and the weather appears to be cooperating: the US Space Force predicts a 60% chance of favorable weather at the scheduled liftoff time, growing to 80% later in the launch window.
If something requires NASA to stand down again on Saturday, there are backup opportunities on Monday or Tuesday. After that, the next launch window will not be until September 19 at the earliest, due to the Moon’s position.
The purpose of the Artemis 1 mission is to verify that the Orion capsule, which sits atop the SLS rocket, is safe to carry astronauts in the future.
The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts to the Moon without landing on its surface.
The crew of Artemis 3 is to land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest, with later missions envisaging a lunar space station and a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.
According to NASA chief Bill Nelson, a manned trip to the red planet aboard Orion, which would last several years, could be attempted by the end of the 2030s.