A crowd the size of a major American city could gather this weekend to watch the launch of NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket.
Artemis 1 was scheduled to launch Monday morning (August 29) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Brevard County. According to county officials (opens in new tab)100,000 to 200,000 people flocked to the Space Coast to see this attempt, which was canceled due to a problem with one of Artemis 1’s first stage engines space launch system (SLS) Rocket.
The mission team considers the issue to be minor as it is a faulty temperature sensor and plans to take it forward another start attempt on Saturday (September 3) at 2:17 p.m. EDT (1817 GMT). That’s right in the middle of Labor Day weekend, potentially allowing many more people to see the unmanned launch firsthand.
In fact, Brevard County officials are expecting a huge crowd — perhaps double Monday’s crowd of 200,000 to 400,000 people. The Orlando Sentinel reported on Thursday (opens in new tab) (September 1). And other Space Coast officials agree with that estimate.
“We’re confident it will be more than Monday because it’s a four ship day in port, a milestone launch, a weekend launch and a bank holiday weekend – some of the main reasons visitors come here all wrapped up at one single day,” Meagan Happel, public relations manager and film commissioner at the Florida Space Coast Office of Tourism, told Space.com via email. “So, yes, we do anticipate potentially doubling our original estimate if that interest is high.”
For perspective: that’s about 400,000 people Population of New Orleans or Tampa. That’s a lot of people seeing a rocket launch, but this isn’t just any mission. Artemis 1 is the debut flight of the 322 foot (98 meter) SLS, which is more powerful than the Saturn vthe iconic rocket that propelled the Apollo spacecraft toward the moon half a century ago.
Artemis 1 will send an unmanned Orion capsule to lunar orbit and back. The main goal is to show that SLS and Orion are ready to transport astronauts, which they will start on the Artemis 2 mission around the moon in 2024 if all goes according to plan.
Space.com Editor Brett Tingley contributed to this report. Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or he Facebook (opens in new tab).