ST. LOUIS – NASA is going back to the moon – and soon. The Artemis I moon rocket has arrived at the launchpad at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center for liftoff on a journey around the moon.

“The new SLS rocket is ready down in Florida and it is the largest rocket that we’ve ever built as people. It is even bigger than the Saturn V in the Apollo days,” said Will Snyder, manager of the McDonnell Planetarium at the Saint Louis Science Center.

NASA announced Wednesday that the mission is set to begin on August 29. The unmanned capsule will fly around the moon for a couple of weeks before heading back to Earth.

“If everything goes well, it won’t be very long now before Artemis II and III when we’ll get to see humans go back to the moon,” Snyder said.

This test launch with the newly-developed Orion spacecraft will determine if we’re ready for larger and longer-term human missions.

“There’s still so much we need to learn, not only about the moon, but this will be a great testing ground for other long-term space missions,” Snyder said. “The type of technology and experience we’ll need to Mars and then, someday, beyond.”

NASA would never have gotten to the moon without St. Louis. The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation created space capsules for the Mercury and Gemini missions, which led to the technology needed to land a man on the moon.

“The heritage of contributing to human spaceflight continues with Boeing. And they are working on several aspects of the SLS rocket that, without them, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing now,” Snyder said.

If you want to learn a lot more about the city’s history with space exploration and see authentic Mercury and Gemini space capsules, visit the McDonnell Planetarium at the Saint Louis Science Center.