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NASA rolls back Artemis I rocket as Florida braces for its worst hurricane in 100 years

NASA is rolling the Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule back into the Vehicle Assembly Building tonight as Florida prepares for Hurricane Ian, which will be the worst to hit in 100 years — and the move leaves the historic lunar mission in limbo.

The rollback means the historic Artemis I mission will launch during the launch window that ends on October 4.

Tuesday’s lunar mission was canceled over the weekend, but the US space agency was still deciding whether to bring Artemis I back to the rendezvous point.

SLS is set to make the return trip at 11:00 p.m. ET, when it will travel about one mile per hour back to the building, which will take at least 11 hours to complete.

NASA is rolling the Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule back into the Vehicle Assembly Building tonight.  The picture shows the rocket that is currently on the launch pad

NASA is rolling the Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule back into the Vehicle Assembly Building tonight. The picture shows the rocket that is currently on the launch pad

NASA announced its decision Monday at 10:07 a.m. ET, detailing that this also “provides time for employees to meet the needs of their families and protect the Integrated Rocket and Spacecraft System,” a statement from the agency said.

Artemis I is the first of the three phases aimed at putting human boots back on the moon – the last time was in 1972.

However, the first phase has yet to get off the ground due to several technical glitches that marred two previous attempts – Tuesday marks the third botched mission.

Tropical Storm Ian is undergoing explosive intensification into a major hurricane heading up Florida from Grand Cayman

Tropical Storm Ian is undergoing explosive intensification into a major hurricane heading up Florida from Grand Cayman

Tropical Storm Ian is undergoing explosive intensification into a major hurricane heading up Florida from Grand Cayman

Artemis 1, NASA's rocket intended to return astronauts to the moon after a 50-year hiatus, has been delayed again due to impending tropical storm Ian

Artemis 1, NASA's rocket intended to return astronauts to the moon after a 50-year hiatus, has been delayed again due to impending tropical storm Ian

Artemis 1, NASA’s rocket intended to return astronauts to the moon after a 50-year hiatus, has been delayed again due to impending tropical storm Ian

A line of shoppers is seen outside a retail warehouse as Floridians rush to prepare for the storm, which is predicted to become a powerful hurricane

A line of shoppers is seen outside a retail warehouse as Floridians rush to prepare for the storm, which is predicted to become a powerful hurricane

A line of shoppers is seen outside a retail warehouse as Floridians rush to prepare for the storm, which is predicted to become a powerful hurricane

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency throughout the state and its 67 counties Saturday afternoon, prompting stores full of panicked shoppers

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency throughout the state and its 67 counties Saturday afternoon, prompting stores full of panicked shoppers

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency throughout the state and its 67 counties Saturday afternoon, prompting stores full of panicked shoppers

The rocket’s first launch failed in late August due to technical errors, while the second attempt in September was halted by a fuel leak.

But as Orion soars into space, cameras will capture every moment of the 42-day trip, including what is said to be an epic shot of the spacecraft with the moon and Earth in the background.

Artemis I is designed to demonstrate that the SLS rocket and Orion capsule are ready to carry astronauts for Artemis II, and ultimately the Artemis III mission to return humans to the moon. The first mission will be occupied.

Tropical Storm Ian is expected to strengthen into a hurricane on Monday and reach ‘major’ hurricane strength – all Category 3 or higher – on Tuesday before hitting Cuba.

The storm is expected to make landfall in Florida by midweek, either late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, bringing with it winds of 130 mph.

“Ian will be a large and powerful hurricane in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and spread its effects across much of the Florida peninsula,” said Jamie Rhome, acting director of the National Hurricane Center.

“The vulnerability along Florida’s west coast is very extreme,” Rhome said, pointing out, “it doesn’t take an onshore or direct hit from a hurricane to pile up the water.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency throughout the state and its 67 counties Saturday afternoon as a sign of officials’ grave concern.

The cities of Orlando, Panama City and Tampa are all in the path of Tropical Storm Ian, according to the latest projections from The Weather Channel. Parts of Alabama and Georgia are also likely to be affected.

Residents in the forecast path have been urged to make hurricane preparations as National Hurricane Center officials warn of the higher-than-normal degree of ‘uncertainty’ in the storm’s expected path and intensity.

DeSantis echoed the uncertainty surrounding Ian’s path, saying ‘just don’t think if you’re not in that eye that somehow you don’t need to prepare.’

DeSantis also warned of the storm's unpredictability, saying residents not in the eye of the storm should still be cautious and prepare

DeSantis also warned of the storm's unpredictability, saying residents not in the eye of the storm should still be cautious and prepare

DeSantis also warned of the storm’s unpredictability, saying residents not in the eye of the storm should still be cautious and prepare

A graphic from the National Weather Service shows potential storm surge depths over South Florida and warns that they are likely to be accompanied by 'large and destructive waves'

A graphic from the National Weather Service shows potential storm surge depths over South Florida and warns that they are likely to be accompanied by 'large and destructive waves'

A graphic from the National Weather Service shows potential storm surge depths over South Florida and warns that they are likely to be accompanied by ‘large and destructive waves’

Cars line up at a Costco gas station in Orlando, Florida as residents rush to fill up on gas ahead of the impending storm

Cars line up at a Costco gas station in Orlando, Florida as residents rush to fill up on gas ahead of the impending storm

Cars line up at a Costco gas station in Orlando, Florida as residents rush to fill up on gas ahead of the impending storm

The National Hurricane Center is issuing storm surge warnings for parts of coastal Florida, including the Florida Keys, as forecasters predict water levels could rise by several feet.

The center also predicted that some areas of the state could receive up to 6 inches of rain through Tuesday night and warned of potential flooding.

John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist, said Sunday that it is not clear exactly where Ian will hit hardest in Florida.

Residents should begin preparations, including gathering supplies for potential power outages, he said.

“It’s hard to say, stay tuned, but that’s the right message right now,” he said. “There’s still time to get your supplies.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Cuba are preparing for Tropical Storm Ian by evacuating some areas of the island and suspending classes in schools in the western part of the island.

At 11 p.m. EST Sunday, Ian was moving northwest at 13 mph, about 140 miles south of Grand Cayman, according to the center. It had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.

President Biden also declared a state of emergency in Florida and activated federal disaster aid for the state, just an hour before canceling his visit to Florida to campaign with the Democratic midterm candidates.