NASA will launch its new moon rocket later today, marking the next chapter in returning humans to the moon.
The flight is the first of the agency’s Artemis program and this time it will be unmanned.
However, there will be astronauts aboard for subsequent missions, with the first manned space flight slated for 2024.
NASA predicts that the first Artemis astronauts will land on the moon in 2025.
The Artemis 1 mission will see the first launch of the new 322-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which according to the agency is the most powerful rocket in the world to date.
It will take the Orion capsule, powered by the European Service Module (ESM) built by Airbus, into the lunar orbit.
Airbus engineer Sian Cleaver is industrial manager of the ESM and as a child he dreamed of being involved in human spaceflight before earning a master’s degree in physics and astronomy from Durham University.
She told the PA news agency: “I’m ridiculously excited and I think everyone on the team is.
“There are years and years of loving work in this project.
“This is the first time we will see one of our European service modules fly into space and go to the moon.
“I think many of us couldn’t believe it: now we have the green light.
“Now, I think it’s really sinking into the fact that this is reality, this is happening and this new chapter of space exploration and going to the moon will really begin.
“We are on the verge of something really exciting now.”
Ms. Cleaver explained that the last time humans went to the moon, about 50 years ago, it was about proving it could be done while the new mission is to prove that people can go longer and more. sustainable.
It will also assess whether some infrastructure can be built on and around the moon, allowing humans to survive on another planetary body.
Now in her thirties, Ms. Cleaver first visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the launch had a window from 1:33 pm (BST) on Monday, when she was only eight.
His role in building the ESM was to make sure that all equipment and subsystems came together at exactly the right time.
Speaking of attending the launch, he said: “I’m so excited to be there.
“It will be, for me personally, a very special time to be back there after such a long time. And now, to really work in the space industry, I still haven’t really understood that I’ve achieved something I’ve wanted to do since I was 15 or so. “
He added: “It is quite surprising that even at this stage of my career – 10 years after starting Airbus – I am essentially working on my dream mission.”
The duration of the mission is 42 days, 3 hours, 20 minutes and in total it will travel 1.3 million miles, before crashing on 10 October.
The UK is part of the Artemis program, contributing to the Lunar Gateway – a space station currently under development with the European Space Agency – working together with the US, Europe, Canada and Japan.
The Artemis mission will be traced to the UK from the Goonhilly ground station in Cornwall.
Libby Jackson, chief exploration scientist at the UK Space Agency, said: “The first launch of the Artemis 1 SLS rocket is an important step for the global space community as we prepare to bring humans back to the moon.
“The Artemis program marks the next chapter in human space exploration and we look forward to continued involvement as it comes to life.”