NASA’s Artemis I launch countdown is underway for a scheduled liftoff from Florida’s space coast on Wednesday, though damage from Hurricane Nicole could delay the rocket’s journey a bit further. .
As Hurricane Nicole made landfall in Florida last Thursday, high winds caused a 10-foot section of caulk to peel off near the crew capsule atop the rocket, The Associated Press reported. .
This is the first test flight of the 322ft rocket, which is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 1:04 a.m. Wednesday – the crew capsule will not be manned by astronauts this go-around, but test dummies will occupy space.
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Mission officials fear that the peeled caulking, though tight, could damage the rocket if it breaks. They are expected to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the launch Monday evening, according to the AP.
“Artemis I will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions aimed at establishing a long-term human presence on the Moon for decades to come,” NASA said on its website. “The primary goals of Artemis I are to demonstrate Orion’s systems in a spaceflight environment and to ensure safe reentry, descent, splashdown and recovery prior to the first flight with the crew on Artemis II.”
Over the course of 25 days, 11 hours and 36 minutes, the spacecraft will travel 1.3 million miles, and when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere it is expected to travel at 24,500 mph, or Mach 32, before s crash on December 11.
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In space, the spacecraft will orbit Earth, deploy solar arrays and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, or ICPS, to gain enough propulsion to leave the planet’s orbit and travel to the Moon, NASA said on its site.
Getting to the moon will take several days, but once there it will fly 100km above the moon’s surface and use gravity to propel the Orion spacecraft about 40,000km from the moon into orbit. .
It will then orbit the Moon for six days before returning to Earth. Once the spacecraft returns, it is expected to land off the coast of Baja, California.
The AP reported that the month-long, $4 billion mission had been stalled since August, due to fuel leaks and Hurricane Ian.
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NASA moved the rocket to its hangar during Hurricane Ian, but it remained on the launch pad during Hurricane Nicole.
The last time NASA sent astronauts to the Moon was on the final mission of the Apollo program in December 1972.
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