MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- On Monday, NASA will send its most powerful rocket ever into space in an attempt to ultimately send humans back to the moon.
The historic launch would not be possible without the research and technology from Mountain View's NASA Ames Research Center.
The Apollo mission was called "one small step for man" and the launch of the Artemis 1 will be another giant leap for humankind.
"Artemis 1 is a flight test of the first system since the Apollo program that's designed to bring humans back to the moon," said Jeremy Vander Kam, Orion Thermal Protection Systems deputy systems manager.
The SLS rocket (Space Launch System) has never flown before and will blast off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:33 a.m. EDT.
Artemis 1 will orbit the moon before returning to Earth hotter and faster than ever before at 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and 25,000 mph.
At the top of the ship is the Orion space capsule with a mannequin named "Moonikin" on board. It is the only capsule of its kind specifically designed for humans.
About 90 minutes after launch, the Orion capsule will fire its engines, and we'll know if it can make it to the moon or not.
The ultimate plan is to establish a moon base where humans will stay. It's an ambitious goal that is really setting in for the NASA Ames aerospace engineer Vander Kam, who was born shortly before the Apollo Mission.
"I've followed the whole history of it, I've been a space nerd for a long time," Vander Kam said. "So, I understand that it happened and what it takes to go into it. But to actually be a part of the first steps back, it's pretty humbling actually, and it's an honor to be a part of it."
Vander Kam was part of the team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View who put nearly two decades into testing, designing and planning to make Monday's historic launch a reality.
The Bay Area center contributed in many ways, including the development for the use of the thermal protection system called the "Orion heat shield" -- one of the key pieces to making a sustainable trip for humans.
"To finally get to this point in time, to fly this flight test, to see all of our systems working for the mission that we designed them for is incredible," Vander Kam said. "I have to stop and remember to enjoy it now and again and remember to look up from the hard work that it takes to make it happen."
Vander Kam and team will be doing inspections and tests during and after the mission that will travel 1.3 million miles in a span of over 42 days.
It will splash down off the San Diego coastline.
If all goes well, Artemis 2 could be our next manned mission back to the moon within two years.
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