All systems are go Monday for NASA’s first moon mission in 50 years

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NASA is ready to send a spacecraft to the moon on Monday for the first time in 50 years.

Three test dummies will be on board the lunar test flight of the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built.

“It’s going to work. This first flight is a test,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“We test it, we stress it. We make this rocket and the spacecraft do things that we would never do with a human crew.”

The main purpose of the flight is to test the heat shield, he said.

“So if the heat shield survives and does what it is expected to do, it’s a successful test,” Nelson said.

If all goes well, NASA may be sending astronauts back to the moon in the coming years. But unlike previous manned moon missions when astronauts stayed for a few days, NASA is contemplating long visits as part of its Artemis program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon.

“This time we’re going back, we’re going to live there, we’re going to learn there,” Nelson said.

“We’re going to develop new technologies — all of this so we can go to Mars with humans.”

The aim of Monday’s test flight is to send the 322-foot-long Space Launch System rocket into the moon’s orbit. One thousand sensors on the ship’s capsule will monitor the effects of vibration, radiation and other factors on the dummies inside.

NASA’s final moon mission was Apollo 17 in December 1972.

On Saturday, lightning struck five times near the rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center but did not impact the launch still set for a Monday, Nelson said.

With News Wire Services