NASA Moves Artemis I Moon Rocket to Shelter Ahead of Hurricane Ian

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

NASA‘s been trying to get the Artemis moon rocket off the ground for weeks. Unfortunately, a combination of technical issues and poor weather conditions have made that pretty much impossible. After rolling the massive spacecraft out for its third launch attempt, personnel were forced to re-hangar Artemis I as Hurricane Ian makes its way toward Florida.

According to CNN, the massive Artemis I moon rocket, which will (eventually) send an uncrewed capsule around the moon, is housed at the Kennedy Space Center in FL. Ahead of the storm, the rocket will, at least for now, remain inside the center’s Vehicle Assembly Building. This serves to best protect what is likely one of NASA’s most expensive modern assets from the impending storm.

Following three canceled launches, the news outlet doesn’t expect the next attempt to take place any sooner than late October. It’s even more likely the launch could take place later, leaning toward November. Regardless, NASA addressed the most recently canceled launch for Artemis I on the mission’s website.

“Managers met Monday morning and made the decision [to delay the launch] based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian, after additional data gathered overnight did not show improving expected conditions for the Kennedy Space Center area.”

Their statement further expressed concern for NASA employees.

“The decision allows time for employees to address the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system. The time of first motion is also based on the best predicted conditions for rollback to meet weather criteria for the move.”

The Return of Artemis I to the Hangar is a Slow Process

Given the sheer size of Artemis I’s rocket, the process of returning the craft to its home base is slow.

As per the outlet, NASA personnel plan to return the carrier rocket, known as the Space Launch System or SLS, to the Kennedy Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building around 11 p.m. Monday night. The rocket will make its way back to shelter in a “slow crawl.” The massive craft gets transported by a “moving platform” unamusingly called the Crawler-Transporter 2. Altogether, the trip back to the Vehicle Assembly Building covers an excruciatingly long, slow 4.5 miles. Part of the reason the trip takes so long is, likely, because the Artemis I project costs a jaw-dropping $4 billion.

Once the SLS is back at the assembly building, NASA personnel will be able to keep the rocket upright. The news outlet states the structure is tall enough to accommodate the craft’s size.

Monday evening’s canceled launch is a huge disappointment for those at NASA and for Outsiders nationwide. Artemis I was originally set to launch on the morning of August 29th. However, an engine cooling issue forced NASA to delay the mission. From there, its launch was rescheduled for early September. Again, though, the mission was delayed, due to both an engine cooling issue and a hydrogen leak.