Skip to main content

These NASA photos of lightning strikes at the Artemis 1 moon rocket launch pad are amazing

lightning strikes a lightning tower to the right of a big red rocket
A lightning tower takes the brunt of a storm Saturday (Aug. 27) to protect the Artemis 1 moon rocket preparing for launch, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A lightning-filled storm surge created some crackling footage at the launch pad hosting NASA's next moon mission.

Dramatic photos show the lightning towers surrounding the Artemis 1 stack — a Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket topped by an Orion crew capsule — doing their job in carrying the big electrical load safely away from the rocket.

The dramatic thunderstorm Saturday (Aug. 27) appeared to threaten the highly anticipated launch of Artemis 1 Monday (Aug. 29), but all is well after NASA evaluated the electrical load in the area of the rocket. The launch remains on track for Monday at 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT). You can watch the launch live online Monday starting at at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT). 

Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates
More: 10 wild facts about the Artemis 1 moon mission

"Whenever we see things that are as dramatic as lightning, we all we pay a lot of attention to it — as we should," Jeff Spaulding, NASA's Artemis 1 senior test director, told reporters Sunday (Aug. 28) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the site of the expected launch.

Lightning strikes the Launch Pad 39B lightning protection system at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 27, 2022, two days ahead of the scheduled launch of Artemis 1. (Image credit: NASA/Keegan Barber)

Lightning is seen near Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 27, 2022, two days ahead of the scheduled launch of Artemis 1. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
SLS model rocket kit

Estes NASA SLS Model Rocket

(Image credit: Amazon)

You can launch a Space Launch System of your own with this Estes NASA SLS model rocket (opens in new tab) for a 1:200 scale version of NASA's moon megarocket. Read more about it.

Spaulding said technicians recorded five strikes on the launch pad lightning towers, with everything "working as it should." All evaluations overnight showed that the rocket was protected, he added.

"We have a threshold that we look at to see what the magnitude of the strikes are, and we did not meet that criteria to have to do an intensive, more invasive type retest," Spaulding said.

A bolt of lightning appears near the Artemis 1 stacked rocket at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Aug. 27, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Lightning strikes one of the lightning towers at Pad 39B at Kennedy's Space Center in Florida on Aug. 27, 2022. NASA's Artemis 1 moon rocket is on the pad, awaiting a planned Aug. 29 launch.  (Image credit: NASA Kennedy Space Center)
See more

Such a retest may have delayed the launch of Artemis 1, but so far the rocket remains go for launch on Monday. A blog post (opens in new tab) from NASA said that the weather is 80% go for the beginning of the launch window at 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT). Weather favorability drops to just 60% as the two-hour window continues, however.

The agency is working to get this mission going as smoothly as possible, but the challenge will be bringing an unflown rocket on an ambitious launch to safely bring Orion around the moon for an approximately 40-day mission.

This mission will need to meet or come close to meeting its major objectives to approve Artemis for future crewed missions to the moon, from launch through splashdown.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab).Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.