FLORIDA, Aug. 28, 2022 (WAM) — NASA’s New Moon rocket entered orbit to begin a critical test flight on Monday despite a series of lightning strikes on its launch pad. The AP reported Sunday.

At 98 meters, the Space Launch System rocket is the most powerful NASA has ever built. Half a century after NASA’s Apollo program landed 12 astronauts on the moon, an empty crew capsule is ready to be sent into lunar orbit.

If this six-week test flight goes well, astronauts could return to the moon within a few years. However, NASA officials warn that the risks are high and the flight could be shortened.

Instead of astronauts, three test dummies will be anchored in the Orion capsule to measure vibration, acceleration and radiation. This is him one of the greatest dangers to humans in deep space. In the capsule alone he has more than 1,000 sensors.

Officials said on Sunday that neither the rocket nor the capsule was damaged during Saturday’s thunderstorm. Ground equipment was also unaffected. Five lightning strikes were confirmed and hit the 600-foot tower surrounding the rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The strike was not strong enough to justify a major retest.

“Obviously, the system worked as designed,” said Jeff Spaulding, NASA senior test director.

More storms were expected. Forecasters indicated acceptable weather at 80% odds Monday morning, although conditions were expected to worsen during the two-hour launch window.

On the technical side, Spaulding said the team has done its best to eliminate a lingering fuel leak over the past few months. His two Countdown tests earlier this year required repairs to leaking valves and other faulty equipment. Engineers don’t know if all the modifications are in place until hours before the planned liftoff.

After years of delays and setbacks, the launch team was thrilled to finally be nearing the maiden flight of the Artemis lunar exploration program, named after the twin sisters of Apollo in Greek mythology.

“We are now less than 24 hours from launch, which is pretty amazing for where we have been on this journey.

A subsequent Artemis flight will take place as early as 2024 and will see four astronauts fly around the Moon. Landing could continue in 2025. NASA targets the unexplored south pole of the moon. This Antarctic is believed to be permanently overshadowed by ice that could be used by future crews.

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