(ORDO NEWS) — NASA has postponed the Artemis I mission to the Moon as Storm Nicole approaches the coast of Florida.
The launch attempt, which was scheduled for November 14, will now take place on November 16, the space agency announced on social media.
“Our people are the most important aspect of our mission,” wrote Jim Free, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development.
“Adjusting our target launch date for Artemis I puts the safety of our employees at the forefront and allows our team to take care of the needs of their families and homes.”
The Atlantic Ocean storm near the Bahamas is expected to develop into a hurricane before hitting Florida either Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning.
As Nicole gains strength, “NASA… has decided to reschedule the launch of the Artemis I mission to Wednesday, November 16, pending safe conditions for the return of employees to work, as well as inspections after the storm passes,” reads the agency statement.
The reserve launch date is November 19.
NASA said it would leave the giant SLS rocket on the launch pad, where it had been placed a few days earlier.
Some experts have expressed concern that the missile, estimated to cost several billion dollars, could be hit by a hurricane if left unprotected.
“In terms of being on site, you need to have peak winds below 74.1 knots, and that’s kind of a key requirement that we’re monitoring,” said chief rocket engineer John Blevins.
The SLS rocket is designed to withstand winds up to 137 km/h, NASA said. It is also designed to withstand heavy rainfall at the launch site. The spacecraft’s hatches are closed to prevent water ingress.
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