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NASA's path back to the moon runs through New Orleans

At the Infinity Science Center near the entrance to Stennis there is a sense of anticipation.

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss — Crews at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi have moved the core stage of the giant SLS rocket on to a stand.

NASA's most powerful rocket ever made, built at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East is now ready for testing.

At the Infinity Science Center near the entrance to Stennis there is a sense of anticipation.

Nine-year-old Naomi Harnish from Vermont said space is pretty cool.

"There are stars and planets and sometimes when we go deeper in Space, we find things that we haven't even seen before," Harnish said. "It inspires me."

It also inspires Naomi's grandmother Barbara Easler who lives near Diamondhead.

"I can hear it from my house when they're trying the rockets out," Easler said. "It actually almost rattles the windows."

The SLS rocket is designed to launch astronauts to the Moon and Mars as part of the Artemis space program.

President Trump gave the program a plug during his State of the Union Address.

"In reaffirming our heritage as a free nation, we must remember that America has always been a frontier nation. Now we must embrace the next frontier: America's manifest destiny in the stars," Trump said during the speech Tuesday night. "I am asking Congress to fully fund the Artemis program to ensure that the next man and first woman on the moon will be American astronauts, using this as a launching pad to ensure that America is the first nation to plant its flag on Mars."

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Back at INFINITY, educator Donna Torres says Artemis has students and parents more focused on science, math and engineering.

"Now, we're able to tell them we're going to the moon and you have the opportunity to go to the moon, too," Torres said. "We just love to see the excitement once again about a space program."

Naomi Harnish who is just in fourth grade is excited about space, so much so, she is adding the job of astronaut to her dream board.

"There's no telling how things can turn out," Harnish said. "You just need to see. Going on to the moon is like wow."

Testing of the individual SLS rockets is expected to ramp up at Stennis over the next several months and continue throughout the year.

The first unmanned mission is about a year away and astronauts are expected to fly a year later.

NASA now has the goal of putting the first woman and another man to the surface of the moon in 2024.

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