PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — With the first launch of the Artemis missions scheduled for Saturday, many people in West Michigan are enthusiastic about the program that aims to eventually return astronauts to the moon.  

The inaugural mission is designed to circle the moon without a crew.

Space enthusiasts like Dave Bradley and his brother Robert Bradley, who visited the Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum in Portage Friday, said they were excited about what the launch will mean for the future of space exploration.  

“Seeing the emphasis back, it’s a great thing,” Dave Bradley said. “Gears are just starting to turn again and we’re finally looking toward the stars again.”

The launch was originally scheduled for Monday but was pushed back after a problem was discovered with an engine. The brothers were optimistic Saturday’s launch would be successful.

“For our country and the world to go back to the moon, I think it’s just great for humanity,” Robert Bradley said.

NASA's Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 2, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Artemis I first attempt to was scrubbed after an issue was found on one of the rocket's four engines. The next launch attempt will be September 3rd. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
NASA’s Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 2, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Troy Thrash, the president and CEO of the Air Zoo, will be one of the space fans glued to the television. He is an astrophysicist who has worked for NASA and said Artemis is major step in the future of space exploration.

“We are reigniting our passion, our desire for space exploration to go beyond the earth orbit to go to the moon and then ultimately set that as a stage to get humans to Mars,” Thrash said.

West Michigan knows the sacrifice of the astronauts who have lost their lives in pursuit of understanding space. Roger B. Chaffee died in the Apollo 1 mission. A tribute remains on display in his hometown at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

The Artemis I mission will launch the Orion spacecraft, which will travel 1.3 million miles around the moon with a total mission time of about 38 days.

“This is the most powerful rocket. When we think about the Apollo missions and the Saturn V, it took about 7.6 million pounds of thrust just to get off the surface of the Earth,” Thrash said. “(Artemis’) Space Launch System, we’re talking about 8.8 million pounds of thrust. Wow, what an incredible machine.”