220831 NASA
Nasa’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Image Credit: AP

New York: Nasa said Monday it would roll the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft back to its assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center, as Hurricane Ian continued to intensify and threaten Florida.

The decision means that Nasa's Artemis I mission, the first in a series of steps to return astronauts to the moon, will be delayed again - this time for at least several weeks.

Nasa had been hoping that Ian would veer west, allowing the space agency to keep the massive rocket on the pad.

But after meeting Monday morning, space agency leaders made the decision "after additional data gathered overnight did not show improving conditions for the Kennedy Space Center area," Nasa said in a statement.

The flight, known as Artemis I, would send the Orion spacecraft, without any astronauts on board, in orbit around the moon. If Nasa completes the flight successfully, it would then load Orion with as many as four people past the moon by 2024. A landing could come a year or so after that.

The next launch availability would come in mid- to late October. Nasa could also attempt to launch in November.

Nasa said it would begin rolling the vehicle back to its assembly building at 11 p.m. Eastern time Monday.