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Hurricane forces NASA moon rocket to shelter launch on hold

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Hurricane forcesNASA moon rocket to shelter; launch on hold

HurricaneIan is prompting NASAto move its moon rocket off the launch pad and into shelter, adding weeks ofdelay to the lunar-orbiting test flight.

Missionmanagers decided Monday to return the rocket to its Kennedy Space Centerhangar. The four-mile trip will begin late Monday night and could take as longas 12 hours.

The spacecenter remained on the fringes of the hurricane’s cone of uncertainty. With thelatest forecast showing no improvement, managers decided to play it safe. NASAalready had delayed this week’s planned launch attempt because of theapproaching storm.

NASA isn’tspeculating when the next launch attempt might be, but it could be off untilNovember. Managers will assess their options once the 322-foot (98-meter) SpaceLaunch System rocket is safely back in the hangar.

The $4.1billion test flight will kick off NASA’s return to the moon since theApollo moonshots of the 1960s and 1970s. No one will be inside the crew capsulefor the debut launch. Astronauts will strap in for the second mission in 2024,leading to a two-person moon landing in 2025.

Meanwhile,NASA and SpaceX are still targeting an Oct. 3 launch of a crew from the U.S.,Russia and Japan to the International Space Station. But managers acknowledgedthat the flight could be delayed as Kennedy braces for the hurricane and itsaftermath.

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