Third time's a charm?  NASA sets a new launch date for its mega-moon rocket

nThe ASA Space Launch System (SLS) lunar rocket has been in development for more than 18 years and has never flown an inch. But that could change on Nov. 14 at 12:07 a.m. ET, when the massive 32-story machine blasts off for a 25-day mission around the moon. This mission, known as Artemis 1, will be preparatory to a similar crewed mission that could be carried out as early as 2024.

Twice before in the past few months the rocket was ready for launch, and twice before mechanical problems derailed plans. But as reported by NASAlast night in Florida shortly after midnight, the rocket began its slow, nine-hour, 6.75 km (4.2 mi) crawl from its hangar in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Pad 39B, arriving there at 8:30 a.m. today.

Mission leaders are confident that this time, the third time will be the charm. “I think everybody feels really good about the launch,” Jim Free, NASA’s director of research systems, said CBS News. “If we weren’t confident, we wouldn’t have deployed.”

Read more: Inside NASA’s fight to launch America back to the moon

But NASA may have to contend with variables entirely beyond its control. On September 26, the SLS, which was at pad 39B in preparation for an upcoming launch attempt, had to make it back to the VAB before the arrival of Hurricane Ian.

Next week, a “non-tropical pressure system” forming in the Caribbean could bring heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 40 knots (75 km/h, 46 mph) at the Kennedy Space Center. Mission managers said those conditions were within mission parameters and there would be no need to roll the rocket off the pad again.

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Write to Jeffrey Kluger c [email protected].

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