BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — NASA started its two-day countdown clock Saturday at exactly 9:53 a.m.
The uncrewed flight around the moon will test the capabilities of the powerful SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.
NASA said the goal of the launch is to ultimately send more astronauts to the moon.
Agency leaders are calling it one of the most significant launches in recent history.
Research scientist and space journalist Dr. Ken Kremer said the stakes are high for the launch and it will help shape the country’s next steps in space.
The launch is expected to draw huge crowds to the Space Coast, and if it is successful, NASA will send a crew to the Moon’s orbit on Artemis II in a few years.
Visitor Ian Twin said he wants the picture-perfect place to watch the launch.
“In the past couple of days, I’ve been just driving around Titusville,” he said.
Twin said he came all the way from New York on a whim, with high hopes that he would witness a piece of history.
“I never got to see a shuttle launch and I regret every minute I’ve missed it because NASA hasn’t put up its own vehicle since 2011.” Twin said. “So, I had to come down and see it.”
NASA officials said Artemis I will travel for 40 days and get as close to 60 miles away from the moon. Then it will reach a point about 40,000 miles above the moon before landing in the Pacific Ocean near San Diego.
“NASA is at a historic inflection point, poised to begin the most significant series of science and human exploration in over a generation,” said Bhavya Lal, NASA associate administrator for technology, policy and strategy.
Lal said the agency’s strategic vision is to have a sustained presence on the moon.
Artemis I is not the only launch people are excited about.
SpaceX plans to send 54 Starlink satellites into orbit using a Falcon 9 rocket.
The rocket is set to lift off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Saturday evening.
But on Monday, Kremer said everyone’s eyes will be on the skies.
“It’s the most powerful rocket NASA has ever put up.” Kremer said. “I think anyone is going to see it and hear it and feel it in a 60-mile radius.”
The Artemis I mission is set to launch with a two-hour window scheduled to open at 8:33 a.m.
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