It is confirmed NASA said Friday, November 11, to maintain the attempt to launch its new mega-rocket to the moon next week, Wednesday, November 16, after inspections have revealed only minor damage following the passage of Hurricane Nicole in Florida.
“Nothing prevents” a liftoff on that date, said at a press conference Jim Free, associate administrator at NASA, specifying that the teams of the space agency had again been able to access the launch pad Thursday, November 10.
NASA’s launch of the SLS rocket, the most powerful ever designed by NASA, is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:04 a.m. local time (06:04 GMT), with a possible two-hour launch window.
NASA has called this launch the Artemis 1 test mission, and it must propel the Orion capsule, without an astronaut on board, to the Moon, without landing there. If the liftoff takes place on Wednesday, November 16, the mission will last 25 days and a half, with a return of the capsule in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.
However, NASA has many preparation operations between now and Wednesday, including powering up the vehicle and a series of technical tests. A component at the foot of the rocket, possibly damaged, may need to be replaced.
There are two options B and C if needed, on Nov. 19 and Nov. 25, Jim Free announced. “Right now, we’re focused on the 16th, and if we get stuck because of something we find during power-up or testing, then we’ll have to think about November 19,” he said.
The Category 1 Hurricane Nicole blew over the rocket while it was outside on its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. But it did not exceed the limits it could endure, according to Jim Free.
He mentioned that if NASA had known a hurricane was coming, the rocket would undoubtedly have been left in the safety of its assembly building.
The rocket had been returned to the assembly building in late September for protection from another hurricane, Ian, but was taken out again just days before Nicole hit.
However, two launch attempts were cancelled at the last moment during the summer due to technical problems.
The Artemis 1 mission will mark the launch of the flagship Artemis program, which should bring the first woman and the first person of colour to the Moon in 2025 at the earliest.
NASA wants to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon, including constructing a space station in orbit around the Moon. For the space agency, this is a step that should allow the first trip to Mars.