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Lightning strikes Artemis I mission's 'Mega Moon rocket' launch pad during tests

Lightning strikes the launchpad near the Mega Moon rocket
Lightning strikes the launchpad near the Mega Moon rocket (Image credit: NASA)

Four lightning bolts struck the launch pad of the 'Mega Moon rocket' during tests on April 2 at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket, part of the Artemis I mission to deliver humans to the moon, is the world’s most powerful and stands at 322 feet (98 meters) tall.

Three of the strikes, which zapped tower two, were low intensity, NASA said in a statement. The fourth, a higher intensity bolt, struck tower one. At the time, the Orion spacecraft (where the crew will sit) and Space Launch System (the giant rocket) were powered up on Launch Pad 39B, during a so-called wet dress rehearsal. That dress rehearsal stopped on Sunday (April 3) due to an issue with two fans that are "needed to provide positive pressure to the enclosed areas within the mobile launcher and keep out hazardous gases," NASA said in another statement.

"Teams currently see no constraints to proceeding with the test countdown timeline as planned and will continue procedures to power up the SLS boosters and ICPS overnight," NASA said. Engineers and the mission management team were slated to decide whether to resume the testing Monday (April 4).

The wet dress rehearsal, which began April 1, involves a series of pre-launch tests in which teams load the rocket with liquid ("wet"), supercooled fuel, verify launch systems and "rehearse" different countdown scenarios before liftoff. 

Actual liftoff is still at least a month away, Live Science previously reported. The Artemis program, which will happen in three stages, aims to land the first woman and person of color on the moon no earlier than 2025, Space.com reported. Though Artemis I won't carry actual humans, two "female" torsos — dubbed "Zohar" and "Helga," by the Israel Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center, respectively — will take the ride to help scientists measure radiation levels. A life-size "male" manikin or "moonikin" will ride in the commander's seat, Live Science reported.

Originally published on Live Science.

Jeanna Bryner
Jeanna Bryner

Jeanna is the editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.