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Hours after NASA’s Artemis Moon rocket launch. Will it finally fly?

NASA is counting down the hours again to the first flight test of its new 32-story Artemis rocket, which the agency hopes will take astronauts back to the moon within a few years.

Hours after NASA's Artemis Moon rocket launch. Will it finally fly?

A multibillion-dollar rocket has lifted off the ground so it can send a capsule — without a crew on board — around the moon and back, allowing managers to perform critical checks of its systems.

Lift-off is now targeting a two-hour window that opens at 1:04 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Nov. 16, and the weather at the Florida launch site looks promising.

Jeremy Parsons, deputy program manager for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy Space Center, told reporters Monday evening, “So far the countdown is going very well and we’re on schedule.” A successful launch would be a major milestone for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the moon.

The agency hasn’t launched a spacecraft designed to send astronauts to the moon since 1972. The Artemis rocket’s initial launch attempt in August was aborted due to engine sensor failure. Then, the agency had to make repairs after leaking hydrogen fuel.

Next, Hurricane Ian moved in and returned the rocket to its hangar, which Parsons called a “little drop.” As the massive rocket returned to the launch pad off the Florida coast, it exploded in the hurricane. Nicole turned out to be a stronger storm than officials expected.

Mission managers spent a lot of time worrying about hurricane damage to a thin strip of caulking material that fills a small gap in the top of the rocket where the Orion crew capsule sits. . Some of this material is torn and too steep to repair.

The concern is that more bits could become dislodged during lift-off and affect other parts of the rocket. But NASA’s Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, says engineers have done extensive analysis of the situation and think it’s OK to fly.

“We went through that today and we closed that action item,” Sarafin told reporters during a conference call on Monday. “I asked if there was any disagreement, and there was none.

We agreed on that flight logic.” As the Artemis team perseveres through all of these recent setbacks, he says, It gives me comfort that we’re ready. When it’s time for us to fly. “Our time is coming. We hope that happens on Wednesday,” says Sarafin but if Wednesday isn’t the right day,

Hours after NASA's Artemis Moon rocket launch. Will it finally fly?

we’ll take the next hurdle, the next test, and persevere through it.” Some spaceflight experts have criticized NASA’s new rocket, saying it is too expensive to be sustainable — the first three flights are expected to cost more than $4 billion each.

And this rocket won’t fly that often. The next flight to send astronauts around the moon would not happen for two years.

There won’t be a landing on the moon until 2025. But since the Space Shuttle stopped flying in 2011, building these massive rockets has been the main focus of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

To focus on the moon and deep space, the agency off-loaded regular trips to the International Space Station to commercial donors.

SpaceX, a private company founded by wealthy entrepreneur Elon Musk, transports cargo as space taxis for astronauts.

NASA has chosen SpaceX to build a lunar lander that would send astronauts into orbit around the moon in a capsule. on the surface.

SpaceX also has a larger rocket called Starship, designed to be less expensive and more reusable than NASA’s Artemis rocket.

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