(NewsNation) — NASA decided to forgo a planned Tuesday launch opportunity for its new moon rocket, Artemis I, because of Tropical Storm Ian, which is expected to become a major hurricane.
Ian is currently churning in the Caribbean. Forecasts suggest it could become a hurricane by Monday, and slam into Florida’s Gulf Coast by Thursday. The entire state, including NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, is in a cone showing the storm’s probable path. On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 24 counties in the state because of Tropical Storm Ian, and requested a declaration be made at the federal level as well, NewsNation local affiliate WFLA reported.
At a meeting Saturday morning, NASA said teams decided to stand down on preparing for the upcoming launch date ahead of the storm.
The agency chose to prepare the 322-foot rocket for a possible return to its hangar. Engineers decided to make a final decision about whether to haul it off the launch pad on Sunday.
If the rocket remains at the pad, NASA could try for an Oct. 2 launch attempt, the Associated Press reported, although a rollback late Sunday or early Monday could possibly push it into November.
“The agency is taking a step-wise approach to its decision-making process to allow the agency to protect its employees by completing a safe roll in time for them to address the needs of their families, while also protecting the option to press ahead with another launch opportunity in the current window if weather predictions improve,” NASA said on its website.
Artemis I is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA, which will attempt to send the capsule around the moon and back. No living people will be on board for this trip, just three test dummies.
A successful future launch would be the first time America has sent a capsule to the moon since Apollo 17 50 years ago. A test flight would also set the stage for astronauts to climb aboard the rocket for its next mission in 2024, leading to a two-person moon landing in 2025.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.