June 10, 2023

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA started fueling its new moon rocket early Monday for liftoff on a check flight to place a crew capsule into lunar orbit for the primary time in 50 years.

Thunderstorms delayed the fueling operation by an hour. The specter of lightning diminished sufficient to permit the launch staff to proceed with loading the rocket’s tanks. However it was unsure how a lot the stalled work would possibly shorten the two-hour launch window.

Nobody was contained in the Orion capsule atop the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket at Kennedy Area Middle. As an alternative, three check dummies have been strapped in for the lunar-orbiting mission, anticipated to final six weeks.

It’s probably the most highly effective rocket ever constructed by NASA, out-muscling the Saturn V that carried astronauts to the moon a half-century in the past. 1000’s of individuals jammed the coast to see the Area Launch System, or SLS, rocket soar.

Rain pelted the launch web site because the launch staff lastly started loading greater than 1 million gallons of super-cold gasoline into the rocket. Forecasters remained optimistic the sky would clear by launch time later within the morning; the rocket is banned from flying by rain.

In addition to the climate, launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson and her staff have been coping with a communication problem involving the Orion capsule.

Engineers scrambled to know an 11-minute delay within the communication traces between Launch Management and Orion that cropped up late Sunday. Though the issue had cleared by Monday morning, NASA wanted to know why it occurred earlier than committing to launch.

The launch staff was additionally cautious of any lingering gasoline leaks. A pair of countdown exams earlier this 12 months uncovered not solely leaks however different technical hassle. NASA officers mentioned they may not be certain concerning the repairs till the ultimate part of the countdown.

This primary flight of NASA’s Twenty first-century moon-exploration program, named Artemis after Apollo’s mythological twin sister, is years overdue. Repeated delays have led to billions in funds overruns; this demo alone prices $4.1 billion.

Assuming the check goes effectively, astronauts would climb aboard for the second flight and fly across the moon and again as quickly as 2024. A two-person lunar touchdown may observe by the top of 2025. NASA is focusing on the moon’s south pole.

Throughout Apollo, 12 astronauts landed on the moon from 1969 by 1972, with stays of no quite a lot of days. NASA is trying to set up a lunar base throughout Artemis, with astronauts rotating out and in for weeks at a time. The subsequent step can be Mars, presumably within the late 2030s or early 2040s.

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