U.S. government is sending astronauts to the moon, and people are more excited about that than the new spacecraft

The moon is the destination of a new NASA rocket slated to blast off in February of next year, and U.S. officials hope the journey there can encourage the country to expand beyond Earth.

They say the new rocket — the Space Launch System — will let the United States resume sending humans beyond Earth’s orbit. Until the SLS flew more than three decades ago, the United States had just one main spacecraft — the Apollo program, which sent a single Apollo spacecraft to the moon in 1972 and returned it home. But five other man-made spacecraft have flown to the moon in recent years, although none has put humans on the lunar surface.

The new project will let NASA launch astronauts from a planet far closer to Earth — and have them return quickly to the United States, where they will join orbiting crews of Space Shuttle astronauts and also cosmonauts from Russia. A new spacecraft from Russia, called Soyuz, launched two American astronauts in December to the International Space Station, but the program ended Feb. 27 when that capsule had trouble with its re-entry system.

The new spacecraft will be much more powerful than those launched to the space station. It has a diameter of 262 feet — longer than the station — and will be made largely of fabric and Kevlar-like material, according to the Wall Street Journal.

NASA will also reduce the Orion spacecraft that was used to bring astronauts to the space station during the station’s recent missions from four to two. They hope to have Orion flying by 2020 or 2021.

As part of a government-led initiative to promote the new vehicle, NASA will perform 19 at-bats in the United States over the next four years. Those 18 pitchers will test the new vehicle. A one-year pilot program will launch astronauts into space five times in 2017, and six times in 2018, each on mission to the space station. And the U.S. will throw out the first pitch at a professional baseball game in Miami.

According to NASA, each one-year program is expected to cost about $38 million. NASA is considering two methods to pay for the at-bats: One, existing programs that are allowed to use up leftover money from previous spending; and two, using money not currently spent on any astronaut training programs.

U.S. officials have also launched a website called gomoon.us for people to get more information about the project and help develop strategies to help it with its at-bats.

The project is expensive, but at least one expert said it is important.

According to the Journal, aerospace engineer David Cadden, who helped design space shuttle docking systems, said cost is not a concern because NASA is getting something very valuable from the investment.

“When I think about development costs of an active human space program, I’d say it’s more valuable and more important to spend money now and not later,” Cadden said.

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