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NASA’s Newest Moon Mission Launch Faces First Delay

The uncrewed mission is the first test flight for a huge rocket built by Boeing, with Monday being the earliest window for take off and Friday and next Monday providing other potential windows.

(TNS) — Amped-up school children and adult space fans waiting to watch the Artemis Space Launch System rocket blast off on a huge screen had twice been through a countdown drill led by NASA personnel, shouting down from 10 as they crowded together for a group photo.

But the real countdown never happened.

The early morning crowd gathered at John C. Stennis Space Center's INFINITY Science Center got the disappointing news minutes later Monday morning. The launch of Artemis I, the first mission in NASA's ambitious aim to return to the moon and eventually reach Mars, was a scrub.

The letdown at the visitor was muted, though, as children rushed to explore other exhibits or checked out NASA merch in the gift shop.

The uncrewed mission, which drew thousands to Cape Canaveral in Florida, is the first test flight for the huge rocket, built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East and tested at Stennis, just across the state line in Mississippi. Monday's planned launch was the earliest for the rocket to take off, with Friday and next Monday as other windows.

Lakrisha Necaise, of Kiln, Mississippi, was watching her 7-year-old son, Evan Harvel, who was absorbed in coloring an Artemis mission patch at an activity table at the INFINITY center.

She hadn't realized that the launch was off. But even though she had taken her out of school for the day, it wasn't a total loss. They had been wanting to come to the INFINITY center for some time, she said.

Jennifer Gutierrez had come all the way from Kenner with her two daughters, including 12-year-old Alana, who wants to fly drones for the Air Force one day and had already visited the Michoud Assembly Facility with her Civil Air Patrol group.

Despite having to wake up early to get there for the 7:30 a.m. scheduled launch, the family said they would do it again to see history being made.

For retirees Richard Bird and Tom Ledet of Covington the historic nature of the flight was the big draw. Bird had been to the Kennedy Space Center to see the last Saturn V rocket blast off in 1973. The two had also gone to the Cape to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle that included Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, on its crew.

Bird even took a trip to Kazakhstan in 2017 to watch a Soyuz launch.

By contrast, the trip to the INFINITY center is a short one, and Ledet shrugged off the cancellation. "We'll go to breakfast," he said.

Joe Freeman works for the Government Publishing Office at Stennis, where NASA test fires its rockets. Although his office is in an old ammunition plant with "pretty thick walls," it still rattled during the test-firing. "It's like an eight-minute thunder," he said.

A confessed space nerd, he and a friend had come to watch the real thing, clad in an Artemis T-shirt.

But the scrub is just part of the process, his friend, Courtney Knight, said. Freeman agreed.

"You're going to space," he said. "It's not like you can pull over and call Triple A."

© 2022 The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.